Nuclear Phase-Out: German Power Grid Expansion to Cost Billions

Germany needs thousands of kilometers in new power lines in order to prepare for the country's planned nuclear phase-out, the country's main grid operators announced this week. Amid criticism that her energy revolution has stalled, Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for faster grid expansion.

Germany's phase-out of nuclear power will lead to a new reliance on renewable energy. Zoom
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Germany's phase-out of nuclear power will lead to a new reliance on renewable energy.

Germany needs 3,800 kilometers (2,361 miles) of new electrical lines to achieve Berlin's plan to phase-out nuclear power by 2022, according to the country's four main grid operators.

The companies presented their plan for a national expansion of the country's power grid in Berlin on Wednesday. The proposal is expected to cost €20 billion over the next 10 years.

The four companies -- 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT TSO and TransnetBW -- estimate that expanding wind power on the North and Baltic Seas would cost another €12 billion, and one of the transmission companies estimates its own costs until 2025 to be €10 billion.

The percentage of solar, wind, hydro and biomass energy in the country is expected to increase by 35 percent by 2020, as the country prepares for the phase-out of nuclear energy announced by Chancellor Angela Merkel after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe last year.

Merkel, who leads the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), has recently called for a quicker expansion of the existing power grid. Speaking at a press conference in Bonn on Tuesday, she said she is sticking by her position that the country should abandon nuclear energy entirely by 2022.

Her statement came after criticism by some in her own ruling coalition who said the energy transition was not realistic because of the slow-moving grid expansion and the threat of rising electrical costs.

Michael Fuchs, the CDU's deputy parliamentary floor leader, told newspaper Welt am Sonntag: "Until now, the focus of the energy transition was unfortunately reduced to the fact that we want to shut down the nuclear reactors. But the consequences were not thought all the way through."

North-South Connection Challenges

Merkel has recently tried to make energy a top issue. She has met with the governors of the 16 federal states with the goal of identifying problems surrounding the nuclear phase-out.

The federal government wants a plan for the expanded grid put into law by the end of this year. German communities along the path of the new power line routes could be eligible for tens of thousands of euros in compensation.

One of the challenges facing the companies is the future capacity of the north-south power lines. Once the nuclear power plants, many of which are located in southwestern Germany, are completely shut down, that part of the country will become more dependent on wind energy from the north.

Martin Fuchs, chairman of the board at TenneT TSO, has estimated that in addition to the new lines needed, another 4,000 kilometers of existing lines must be modernized.

-- mbw, with wire reports

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