Adequate environmental assessments during planning
It is important that bird electrocution risk forms part of environmental impact assessments associated with planned electricity distribution infrastructure.
Environmental assessments must ensure that new power lines are safe for birds, taking into account the different species in the vicinity that could potentially be electrocuted; eagles and vultures have large wingspans, and that needs to be considered when specifying spacing distances between phase cables on a power line.
Environmental assessments should also ensure that the course a power line takes through habitats and landscapes is least likely to attract perching birds, e.g. by avoiding – wherever practicably and economically possible – open, flat plains. It is important that environment assessments have some form of statutory basis to enforce compliance.
Ensure all new power infrastructure is bird safe
The risk of bird electrocution should be a core consideration when selecting hardware configurations for electricity distribution lines. Key elements are:
a) to ensure that the phase cables are spaced far enough apart to reduce the risk of large birds touching
b) preferably use of non-conducting materials for support structures, such as wooden poles or fibre-reinforced composite crossarms and
c) on grounded structures, such as reinforced concrete poles with metal crossarms, phase cables should be suspended from chain insulators rather than supported by upright pin insulators.
Additional bird safe alternatives include using insulated cables and burying cables underground.
Infrastructure funding that is dependent on a bird safe approach
Funding for power line infrastructure, particularly in Asia and Africa, can come from international institutions as part of wider economic and social development goals.
In such cases, funding organizations should specify that the electricity distribution lines they finance should be safe for birds. This can be achieved by making funding dependent on the contracting organization undertaking a process of environmental assessment and ensuring that that process considers the issue of avian electrocution.