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Merkel Cabinet Backs Power-Line Plan to Absorb Renewables Growth

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet backed a plan to build three “power autobahns” stretching north to south to move growing supplies of renewable energy across the country.

The plan involves laying about 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles) of new transmission lines and upgrading 2,900 kilometers of existing cables by 2022, according to the Bundesnetzagentur regulator. New direct-current high-voltage networks would bring wind power generated in the north to consumers in the south, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said today in Berlin.

Power supply has moved to the center of Germany’s political agenda since Merkel decided in 2011 to replace nuclear reactors with more fossil-fired plants and a growing share of clean-energy sources. The Bundesnetzagentur has called on grid operators to stabilize the network as the country adds wind farms and solar parks, whose output varies with the weather.

“Realizing the energy switch is a task of historic dimensions,” Economy Minister Philipp Roesler told reporters today. The government seeks to cut the average time it takes to develop arterial power lines to four years from 10, according to Roesler’s ministry.

Southern Germany may lose about 6,000 megawatts of power-plant capacity in the coming years, Andreas Loeschel, a professor of economics at the University of Heidelberg, said today.

“I don’t expect we will see widespread power outages,” said Loeschel, who also chairs the government’s energy commission. “Doubts about supply security, however, are enough to damage the acceptance of the energy switch.”

Germany’s four main grid operators in May said the country’s energy overhaul required about 3,800 kilometers of new cables, including a fourth power-line corridor. Their proposal was scaled down by the regulator.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stefan Nicola in Berlin at snicola2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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