Safety measures on electricity masts and cables

Safety measures on electricity masts and cables
The energy supply is generally reliant on a dense network of overground cables. © K.T./

Involved sectors

Nature protection, Other: Energy

Affected habitats

Forest, Shrubs and wooded areas, Bogs and fens, wetlands, Alpine habitats, Grassland, Arable land, Areas for settlements and transport, Waterbodies


In the Alps, too, the energy supply is generally reliant on a dense network of overground cables. For birds, especially migratory species, these cables – and to an even greater extent, dangerously constructed electricity masts – pose a major hazard. Masts are a popular roosting and resting place for many species of bird. The type of mast construction determines whether these are safe places for birds. On many masts in the mid-voltage network, for example, the arrival or departure of a bird in flight may trigger an earth fault or short circuit which kills the bird. For large species of bird in particular, such as white and black storks, the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo), Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) and Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), electrocution by power lines is now one of the main causes of population decline. In areas which birds regularly fly over in large numbers at low altitude (e.g. topographical bottlenecks in valleys), the cables should be laid underground or the areas bypassed altogether. If this is not possible, safety measures should be applied to cables and masts.


Impact in particular on Birds
Ecological impact  
Reduction of fragmentation or creation of new valuable habitats Safety measures for cables are a priority, particularly In EU bird protection areas, near the breeding places of endangered species, in rubbish dumps, water bodies and wetlands.
Improvement or preservation of habitats Safeguards roosting and resting places for both migrating and sedentary birds.
Time of realisation for measure Immediate: Once the safety measures have been completed, the birds are no longer in danger.
Impact scope Very localised (plot): Although the direct impact of the measure is local, entire populations can be affected in terms of the number of birds killed.


Implementation period Years: The application of safety measures to masts and other technical structures over a wide area depends on the number of masts and the density of the supply network, and can be very time-consuming.
Frequency Non-recurring

Economic and legal aspects

Costs Very high (>1 Mio. EUR): Applying safety measures to masts and cables over a wide area will incur very high costs (up to several millions of euros).
Socio-economic impacts Low
Sources of financing Other private sources, Public: local, Public: regional, Public: national
Legal situation The application of safety measures to masts and other technical structures associated with overhead energy cables is already established in law in many countries, eg in the German Federal Nature Conservation Act.

Further information

Evaluation Numerous international and national ornithological and nature conservation societies, along with research institutions and nature protection authorities have produced comprehensive investigations and studies, which present in detail the technology for bird-friendly cable construction and the ways of making dangerous masts safe. The decline in mortality on refurbished masts has been proved scientifically.
Information Other: Nature Conservation and Biodiversity Union (NABU) brochure: Vorsicht Stromschlag! - recommendations for protecting birds on overhead power cables. Europarat / Conseil de l'Europe (2006) : Lignes à haute tension - comment protéger les oiseaux. Sauvegarde de la nature n°140. Strasbourg, 76 p.
Contact Other: NABU – Federal working group on birds and powerlines. BirdLife International
Good Practice Marking of power lines and appropriate design of electricity pylons
Signalisation des lignes électriques et aménagement des pylônes électriques
Visualizzazione degli elettrodotti e configurazione dei tralicci

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