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29/10/2014 - EU power initiative ignores health issues

BREAKING NEWS: A story will be coming out on Friday 31st October looking at a new study investigating powerlines and childhood leukaemia
BESTGRID workshop

Launched in April 2013, BESTGRID claims to be a novel approach to managing the rollout of large scale power infrastructure through a clear and transparent process involving high stakeholder engagement from both industrial and public sectors. Based primarily in Germany, their goal is to facilitate the process of modernising and expanding the European electricity grid.

BESTGRID apparently has a very broad range of support in both its advisory board and its consortium of partner organisations, from European senior policy makers to industry members to large NGOs (such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth). It is a group of four large scale infrastructure projects under the RGI (Renewables Grid Initiative), which is an initiative promoting the integration of 100% renewably-generated electricity into the European grid without compromising the ecosystem, as part of the commitment to reduce the carbon burden of the existing energy network.

We had been considering attending BESTGRID's workshop (hosted by 50 Hertz, a German electricity company), designed to encourage collaboration on the issue from all interested parties with respect to the four projects in progress, but decided against it as the RGI have explicitly decided against addressing neither the association between EMFs and health nor visual amenity impacts. They recognise that these are important considerations, but have stated it is outside the scope of their existing initiative.

Powerwatch CommentsAt Powerwatch we find this hard to comprehend - of all the stakeholder engagements we've been involved in (from the relatively recent UK Sage process to a number of individual groups protesting the building of new overhead lines), these are by far the issues of greatest concern to the general public. For the RGI to succeed in moving forward with their infrastructure projects without strong and vocal opposition from the public, it is crucial that these are addressed more comprehensively.

It is very clear from the presentation by 50 Hz that their efforts were centred around engaging with the general public to offer some peace of mind related to the EMFs from overhead power lines. All they will be doing is demonstrating compliance with ICNIRP basic restrictions as this is the only obligation they have. Wider health issues related to lower exposure levels are still not being discussed, and it is therefore inevitable that further protests and consumer group opposition to infrastructure projects will continue until they feel that they have had their concerns suitably addressed.

We have written them an open letter outlining our concerns and asking when and how they intend to address them, and in fairness, the response we received was both prompt and excellent. Unfortunately, it also highlights that they currently don't have the membership required to address the issue adequately, with no-one present who has sufficient expertise in EMFs - especially, EMFs, powerlines and health issues.

It was also very clear that at least some of the power utilities in the RGI really do not want to properly discuss the EMF related health issues at all - apart from PR that simplistically "reassures people" as discussed above.

Powerwatch believes that they should take notice of the more mature and professional way National Grid deals with this - instigating and co-sponsoring, with Children with Cancer UK, the Department of Health's SAGE initiative which produced two excellent reports after several years of hard work. Powerwatch was an active participant in the SAGE process.

National Grid, under the leadership/authorship of their senior EMF expert, Dr John Swanson, have also developed and provided what must rank as the most comprehensive, factually detailed, official internet resource resource on these matters. Powerwatch does believe that both powerlines and electric and magnetic fields should be avoided where possible, but the National Grid website allows people to assess their situation in the light of current factual knowledge.


    » Advisory board
    » Consortium
    » Who they are
    » Mission statement
    » The board
    » EU Grid Declaration (.pdf)
» Workshop
» 50 Hertz

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