Merkel Government Seeks to Speed Up German Power Line Expansion

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government wants to speed up the modernization of Germany’s power grid to protect supplies as Europe’s biggest economy shifts its generation mix away from nuclear energy.

The government identified 36 high-voltage power-transmission projects costing an estimated 10 billion euros ($13 billion) as “high-priority” in a draft bill to be debated March 14 in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

“The swift expansion of renewable energies, the gradual shutdown of the remaining nuclear power plants and the construction of fossil-fired stations at new locations require power to be transmitted across large distances,” according to the bill. “Especially power from wind farms and new conventional plants in northern Germany must be shipped to consumer hot spots in the south and west.”

Germany, which plans to shutter its atomic reactors by 2022, depends on networks in neighboring Poland, France and the Czech Republic to reroute power from its wind farms in the north to the southwest, the nation’s biggest manufacturing region, where Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and chemical maker BASF SE run factories. The Czech government last year complained it was close to a blackout because the German wind farms overloaded its grid.

German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, who will speak on the issue in this week’s debate, said last week that the government wants to speed up planning for power lines to four years on average from the current 10 years.

Germany’s Federal Administrative Court would handle any legal cases arising from the power line developments, a measure to speed up the projects. Previously lawsuits could be brought in local or regional courts.