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Biodiversity and Ecosystems

GRI 103, 304-2 / SDG15

CEZ Group is aware of the importance of environmental protection and conservation and support of biodiversity and ecosystems. The requirements of environmental management and sustainability in all stages of the life cycle of our activities are integral to the processes and activities of the company. CEZ Group uses safe and proven technologies with the aim of minimizing negative impacts of the Group’s activities, products, and services on the environment. CEZ Group requires suppliers and contractors to take the same approach to safety and environmental protection. We established these requirements in the CEZ Group supplier obligations outlined in the Commitment to Ethical Conduct, section 8: Environmental protection and sustainable development. CEZ Group’s dedication to the protection of the environment and associated responsibilities are presented in the document Safety and Environmental Protection Policy.

As part of the EIA process, impact assessments are carried out for new production and changes to existing production that could have a negative impact on the environment. EIA documentation includes mitigation measures to avoid, minimise or compensate for negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems.

Ongoing monitoring is carried out both in the context of valid operating permits and in the context of corporate social responsibility (air monitoring near main emission sources). The results are reported to both the state administration and local authorities.

Protection and Restoration of Biodiversity

CEZ Group Board of Directors has accepted the responsibility to protect biodiversity. The primary challenge in promoting biodiversity in our industry is the reduction of the burning of fossil fuels and lignite mining and the recultivation of affected areas. In CEZ Group’s strategy VISION 2030—Clean Energy of Tomorrow, decarbonization is among our core environmental targets: the share of coal-fired electricity generation is set to drop to 12.5% by 2030.

CEZ Group’s biodiversity strategy includes this decarbonization target for reducing GHG emissions, reduction of pollutants, and reduction of lignite mining, as basic measures of protection and restoration of biodiversity. The strategy also involves restoration of areas affected by mining, where the biodiversity of natural habitats is promoted in the reclamation process. All investment interventions and changes in the operation of facilities that could impact biodiversity are subject to environmental impact assessments (EIA). In addition, biological monitoring is carried out before project implementation to provide a detailed mapping of the occurrence of all plant and animal species, especially protected ones. In case of their occurrence, environmental experts then relocate them to suitable habitats, for example, in reclaimed areas.

Some of CEZ Group’s sites are historically located near or within specially protected areas, in protected landscape areas, nature reserves, and in proximity to natural monuments. Some operations are located directly in nature protection areas of European importance or Bird Areas NATURA 2000. Any activities and operations at these sites with high biodiversity are subject to conditions and obligations set to protect species by competent nature conservation authorities.

An important part of CEZ Group’s biodiversity activities is the fight against invasive alien species. Invasive species are among the main negative factors threatening the existing biodiversity of native ecosystems.

The zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) is an invasive alien species of mussel which has gradually colonized much of Europe’s aquatic environment. Like other invasive alien species, zebra mussel does not have a predator in the local environment of such a magnitude that it would reduce its population by natural means. Overpopulation causes technical problems in hydropower plants and other technical installations that use raw river water. In connection with the long-term monitoring, early prediction and reduction of zebra mussel infestation in the reservoirs of hydroelectric power plants, we have prepared a preventive biological monitoring in 2023 with the aim of determining the current state of biological contamination of the cooling circuit and other water systems of the Ledvice thermal power plant fed by the river Elbe. The monitoring focuses on the penetration of mussel eggs from external water sources and the development of mussel contamination throughout the year.

Bird Protection

CEZ Group focuses on protecting birds from electrocution and preventing injuries and deaths of birds caused by their landing on power lines. Most commonly, plastic protectors are placed over insulators. Another method of bird protection is the installation of bracket structures to prevent the electrocution of birds landing on power lines. The bracket structures are equipped with bars for safe perching. This type of protection is used in the reconstruction or construction of new high-voltage lines.

In the distribution network of ČEZ Distribuce, 3,693 support points of high-voltage power lines were equipped with protective elements in 2023. ČEZ Distribuce owns and manages about 475,000 high-voltage support points, of which 71% are now safe for birds. In 2023, CZK 10,6 million were spent on bird protection.

ČEZ Distribuce also monitors stork nests located on the distribution network installations. Every year are evidenced cases of storks building their nests on support points of low-voltage lines. The nests are removed and transferred to safer places in collaboration with regional authorities and the Czech Society for Ornithology. The support point is then fitted with a barrier to prevent the stork from returning. If nest removal is not possible, the wires around the nest are insulated to prevent storks’ injury or death by electrocution.

At the initiative of the Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic (NCA CR), an inspection of hollow concrete power line poles was conducted by ČEZ Distribuce. The covering of the poles was checked and repaired to protect the critically endangered little owl (Athene noctua or owl of Minerva). The inspection of the columns was recommended by the NCA CR in areas critical for the nesting of the little owl. It is a highly endangered species, and its protection is a priority for species conservation, given the current critical status of its population in Central Europe.

In 2023, the success story of support for the nesting of the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) continued at CEZ Group sites. A total of 16 chicks were raised in the boxes, which were installed on properties owned by members of the CEZ Group. Since 2011, when the first falcon nesting box in Czechia was placed on the cooling tower of the Tušimice power plant, at least 163 chicks have been raised on high-rise power plant structures, chimneys, and cooling towers.

Protected Animal and Plant Species

In order to protect the environment and promote biodiversity, CEZ Group monitors species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species or otherwise protected, which live in their natural habitats in areas affected by operations.

IUCN Red List Species and National Conservation List Species with Habitats in Areas Affected by CEZ Group operations.
Species Total Number Class
Critically endangered 32 Aves, Insecta, Plantae
Endangered 48 Aves, Insecta, Amphibia, Mollusca, Plantae
Vulnerable 91 Aves, Insecta, Amphibia, Reptilia, Mollusca, Crustacea, Rotifera, Fish, Mammalia, Plantae
Near threatened 96 Aves, Insecta, Amphibia, Reptilia, Mollusca, Arachnids, Mammalia, Plantae
Least concern 165 Aves, Insecta, Mammalia, Fish, Plantae

By conducting biological surveys in our localities, various species of animals and plants have been detected, and, in some cases, assessed as protected species. These species are often tied to specific conditions of a particular locality. CEZ Group tries to protect and support these particular areas to promote the existence of rare biotopes and the protected species of animals and plants associated with them.

An important area, where monitoring and protection of endangered plants and animal species is carried out, is the former Tušimice ash deposit area. The presence of endangered species of butterflies, birds, reptiles, and plants (Hipparchia semele, Sylvia nisoria, Lacerta viridis, Helichrysum arenarium) is a subject of protection in this area. The aim of protection is to stabilize and strengthen the populations of threatened species and to maintain or increase the potential of the area for permanently occurring species on the Red List of Threatened Species of the Czech Republic. As this is a valued area for many reasons, in 2022 a contract was prepared between ČEZ, a. s., and the Regional Authority of the Ústí nad Labem Region for the protection of the area under Act No. 114/1992 Coll., on Nature and Landscape Protection. The contractual commitment ensures the elimination of invasive plant species, controlled mowing and grazing by sheep and goats in order to maintain optimal conditions for the redshank population and, last but not least, the monitoring and evaluation of individual indicators of the protected area.

Within the Ledvice power plant, a suitable area has been created for the rescue of the critically endangered common bream (Carassius carassius). This species used to be abundant in village ponds, dead ends and pools along rivers, often the only species in stagnant, oxygen-deficient water and the last species in a silted-up pond or pool. However, it is now being outcompeted by an invasive species, the silver bream (Carassius auratus). In the four years since it was last cleaned, the retention basin of the power station's process water treatment plant has been progressively prepared to provide suitable conditions for the breeding of silver bream. In cooperation with the Fishing Association in Duchcov, genetically pure individuals suitable for breeding were secured in the vicinity of the Ledvice power plant and in the ponds around Duchcov, i.e. not affected by cross-breeding with invasive species. In order to assess the health of the population and its growth, regular control catches are carried out. Based on expert advice, a suitable time for harvesting and returning the bream to its natural habitat will be determined.

CEZ Group also cooperates with the irrigation system administrator Lesy ČR and, by diverting surface water through the area of the Hodonín power plant, it contributes to the protection of the unique and irreplaceable biotope of alluvial forests in the Czech Republic threatened by previous complex water management measures. In addition, the diverted surface water subsidizes the Podluží spring, a source of drinking water for the local community.

During biological surveys at CEZ Group localities, the presence of some protected species of animals was detected, such as the Bombus lapidarius, Cicindela campestris, Hyles euphorbiae, Iphiclides podalirius, and Oriolus oriolus. In the case of plants, an example is the site of the Temelín nuclear power plant, where some species of plants included in the Red List of Threatened Species of the Czech Republic were detected. The detected species are found within the grounds of the power plant, demonstrably due to the impact of construction work in the past. Soil manipulation and subsequent recultivation created areas with sparse vegetation cover or wet places where these plants thrive (mainly due to a low competitive pressure from the surroundings). These include Filago arvensis, Centaurium erythraea and Vulpia myuros.

Activities in localities always take into account conservation requirements of protected species of animals and plants.

Mine Reclamation

Technical and biological reclamation of areas affected by mining operations of CEZ Group continued in 2023. Restoration of landscape and establishment of ecological stability are essential for minimizing and eliminating of environmental impacts of lignite open-cast mining. The key objectives of reclamation are the creation of a new landscape with the restoration of all critical functions in the reclaimed areas and their integration into the surrounding landscape. Individual reclamation projects are prepared in accordance with the Comprehensive Remediation and Reclamation Plan.

The main activity of Severočeské doly is the mining of mineral resources, i.e., activities taking place below the surface. CEZ Group does not operate any other extensive subsurface activity. Biodiversity support is one of the main management priorities of Severočeské doly, as an important tool for nature and landscape conservation. Biodiversity protection and enhancement are subject to conditions set out in the mining permits under the Opening, Preparation, and Extraction Plans governing lignite mining in the Bílina and Nástup Tušimice mines. Protective measures are also introduced in the towns and villages affected by mining, such as creating noise barriers, walls, and forest belts that reduce adverse effects of mining activities.

In 2023, Severočeské doly completed landscape reclamation on an area of 119.48 ha and started new reclamation on an area of 50.91 ha. No land acquisitions for mining were made in Bílina mines and in Nástup Tušimice mines in 2023. Before the quarrying process, biological monitoring of the acquired lands is carried out. Its purpose is to map the occurrence of specially protected animal and plant species, which will be relocated to biotopes created in reclaimed areas. In the case of their occurrence, a transfer is made to the gradually emerging replacement biotopes created on reclaimed areas.

The reclamation process is regularly inspected by our employees of the Reclamation Department. Representatives of the state administration and representatives of the municipalities and towns in whose districts the reclamation works are carried out are also present on inspection day.

Summary Table of Individual Types of Reclamation (in ha), Including Percentages
Types and Areas of Reclaimed Land In progress Completed Combined
Nástup Tušimice mines Bílina mines Nástup Tušimice mines Bílina mines Severočeské doly %
Reclaimed land total 711.68 675.49 2,668.66 3,676.68 7,732.51 100
Farmland 174.43 150.93 1,522.57 1,338.52 3,186.45 41.21
Forest 507.36 402.50 937.95 1,706.44 3,554.25 45.96
Water 4.09 18.13 54.13 160.12 236.47 3.06
Other 25.80 103.93 154.01 471.60 755.34 9.77

In the territory of interest of Severočeské doly the following significant landscape elements were accepted by the nature protection authority:

Succession area Pokrok on the Pokrok tip - with an area of 3.6 ha, a technically non-reclaimed area left for natural regeneration in order to strengthen the ecological functions of the landscape.

Succession areas on the Radovesická tip with an area of 54.3 ha, with the preservation of habitat diversity in the form of elevations and depressions as a characteristic remnant after the hopper's filling of the tip. The resulting varied fragmentation of the micro-relief created a whole range of different ecotypes for settlement by different plant and animal species.

Jarmila's successful area on the Radovesické tip - with an area of 12.4 ha, exceptional terrain fragmentation and gradation of floors, which together create a very attractive natural habitat for wildlife and bird nesting. The location is also a popular refuge for insects.

Successive areas on the Merkur tip with an area of 32.4 ha, with the preservation of the ruggedness of the terrain, which are nesting grounds for a number of endangered bird species, other endangered species hunt or gather food here. From a botanical point of view, it is also advisable to leave the site in its current state without recultivation.

The mentioned areas are part of the category “completed” and “other” reclaimed land.

Ensuring Ecosystem Functions on Watercourses

Adherence to permits, cooperation with state water protection authorities and state entities entrusted with the management of basins and streams leads to optimal handling and management of water, which will ensure maximum provision of ecosystem functions, preservation and prosperity of the water ecosystems.

Other Activities in the Field of Biodiversity and Education

The CEZ Foundation announces the grant program “Stromy” (Trees) twice a year, in spring and autumn. This grant procedure is aimed at improving the environment by supporting tree planting. In the grant procedure, the planting of tree species is supported primarily in an urbanized environment or in its immediate vicinity, which will lead to the adaptation and mitigation of the effects of climate change at the local level. This is mainly about the planting or restoration of trees near public buildings, linear trees, in publicly accessible gardens, parks, trees along watercourses and semi-trailer reservoirs, draws, orchards, green barriers against wind and dust, alleys, rows of trees and other natural or cultural valuable locations. The planting includes native species of trees with local origin and their varieties for the habitat. In 2023, we supported 138 applications in the amount of CZK 13,329,463. Since 2011, 803 projects have been supported for 84.5 million CZK. In total, we helped plant 127,047 trees. 

The CEZ Foundation is a long-standing partner of Safari Park Dvůr Králové and financially supports a project that contributes to the rescue of endangered species of rhinoceros. Over the past seven years, we have contributed a total of CZK 8 million.

As part of corporate volunteering, it is also possible to support companies in the field of ecology and the environment education. The planting of trees in the deforested and drying area of Heraltice in Vysočina is already a traditional event for employees of nuclear power plant Dukovany. In 2023, 1,480 new trees were planted. The goal of this volunteer event is the creation of mixed stands with the representation of a wide range of tree species fulfilling the expected functions of the forest. In 2023, employees of CEZ Group further supported with their work for example the Prague ZOO or the Prague Botanical Garden.