May 16, 2019 / 11:14 AM / 2 months ago

German energy regulator urges quicker action on power grids

* BnetzA notes 1,800 km of new grids approved or built

* But urges more speed to account for nuclear, coal exits

* Pace slowed by bickering between states, local opposition

* Grid firms have applied to spend 61 billion euros to 2030

By Vera Eckert

BONN, Germany, May 16 (Reuters) - Germany must pick up the pace of installing new power transmission lines to keep the lights on when it switches off nuclear power, its energy regulator said on Thursday.

Network infrastructure is crucial to help German raise wind and solar power’s energy share from a third now to 65 percent by 2030, as it seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions to meet its climate commitments. Offshore wind power, for example, must be transported from the North Sea to the industrial south.

“We have made progress, but I would warn about seeing that as an ongoing trend,” Jochen Homann, the president of the Bundesnetzagentur authority (BNetzA), said at a press conference.

“We still are not proceeding as quickly as we would want and costs will rise if we do not realise the grid expansion in time,” he said.

Homann noted that of some 7,700 kms of additional grids and power line improvements are needed to accommodate the rise of renewable installations in the next decade, around 4,600 km are subject to concrete planning while 1,800 km have been approved or already put in place, and the rest have not been looked at.

A law to speed network expansion was passed last month by both houses of parliament which Homann said should help.

Nevertheless, the major stumbling blocks to investments in grids were long planning procedures due to Germany’s federal system, that means states have to co-operate, and because citizens often resent new infrastructure on their doorsteps.

“We observe that they are saying they want the energy transition generally, but please spare our locality,” Homann said.

Germany is set to quit nuclear power by 2023, losing 11,000 megawatts (MW) of reliable capacity and will close sizeable coal plant capacity in another climate-related process.

Costs for grid construction and operations incurred by transmission grid firms (TSOs) overseen by BNetzA are passed on to customers, making up a quarter of consumer’s bills.

TSOs last month applied to spend 61 billion euros ($68 billion) in onshore grids by 2030, including a fourth north-south line previously not thought to be required.

This is up from 52 billion euros estimated in February and 32 billion previously.

“We’ll be assessing these plans carefully, but one thing is clear, we need more grid expansion,” Homann said. ($1 = 0.8920 euros) (Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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