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Germans Embrace Transition to Renewable Energy, Just Not in Their Backyards

Tubes for the underground cables
Germany is building electricity grids above and below ground.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The cost of Germany’s plan to transition from fossil fuels to wind and solar energy, estimated at up to €30 billion, could double or triple if a new national power grid must be built underground.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Germany adopted its new renewable energy plan after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
    • The plan is requiring the shut down of all German nuclear power plants over the next decade.
    • The plan has subsidized the construction of wind turbines and solar panels, which has caused a glut of electricity and a halving of the wholesale electric price.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

The costs of Germany’s ambitious plan to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy are set to soar as regional governments rebel against plans to build a new national electric grid.

The plan, known in German as the “Energiewende’’ or energy transformation, aims to phase out nuclear power by 2022 and generate 80 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2050. The transition was agreed to after the March 2011 meltdown of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, which prompted the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, a trained physicist, to agree to phase out Germany’s stable of nuclear power plants.

Analysts have estimated that it will cost €20 billion to €30 billion to upgrade Germany’s electric grid using primarily above-ground cables. But if the same infrastructure has to be placed underground – which may be necessary to appease residents living along the route – the price of the mammoth project could double or triple in cost, one expert estimated.

But these costs are likely to soar in the face of fierce local opposition to the new power lines and pylons that are supposed to be built to support the new electric grid.

Germany’s existing power networks were built in the last century, and were designed to transport electricity from power plants to factories and large towns. In the new era, the grid has to collect locally generated electricity and distribute it across the entire country.

 

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