March 20, 2015

Germany sees new power lines as vital in teeth of Bavarian protests

Reuters | March 19, 2015 |

The German government believes it is “essential” to build three new high-voltage power lines to transfer excess wind energy from the breezy north to the industrial south, according to an Economy Ministry paper seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The electricity superhighways are regarded as a crucial element of Germany’s shift towards renewable sources of energy and away from nuclear and fossil fuels, a process known as the “Energiewende.”

But a decision on whether to build the lines was postponed last month amid opposition from Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer, who has bowed to locals’ concerns over the prospect of unsightly pylons in their neighbourhood.

Keen to avoid the German power market being split into two price zones, the government is still in favour of the power lines, according to a draft economy ministry document approved by the chancellery ahead of a meeting of parliamentary groups on energy policy at the weekend.

“We want to keep a unified price zone in Germany. Therefore we want to eliminate the grid bottlenecks. For this purpose the three direct current connections between north and south Germany are especially indispensable,” the document said.

The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) has warned delays to grid expansion could become the Achilles’ heel of the Energiewende and create bottlenecks and electricity shortages.

Should the power lines not be built, power-hungry companies in southern Germany, like Siemens and carmaker BMW , could be forced to pay more for electricity than firms in the north.

The government paper raised the possibility that the new lines could be built along existing power routes “as far as this is technically possible and economically justifiable”.

In addition, in particularly contentious areas it could be possible to lay some of the lines underground, the paper added. (Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Stephen Brown and William Hardy)

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