Parliament Debates Expansion of Electricity Grids

The German Parliament (Bundestag) today had the expansion of the electricity grids on the agenda. The government has submitted a “Second Law Concerning Measures to Accelerate the Expansion of the Electricity Grids, which contains the “Federal Requirement Plan for Transmission Networks”.

Parliament has yet to adopt the “Federal Requirement Plan for Transmission Networks” (Bundesbedarfsplan Übertragungsnetze) according to Section 12e German Energy Act (EnWG). Sections 12a to 12e EnWG were introduced following the German energy policy shift (Energiewende) of 2011 towards an energy supply provided mainly by renewable energy by 2050. They lay down the procedure for determining the need for grid expansion in Germany.

Together with the Grid Expansion Acceleration Act for Transmission Networks (NABEG), which was also adopted in 2011, they shall speed up grid expansion. With the adoption of the Federal Requirement Plan by parliament the necessity and urgency of the power line projects included for an energy supply in accordance with the EnWG (see in particular Section 1 EnWG) are determined. The determinations are binding for the transmission system operators (TSOs) as well as the plan determination procedures and planning permit procedures pursuant to a number of NABEG provision. Grid expansion is considered vital for the changing energy supply system in Germany with a growing share of intermittent renewable energy, often generated far away from the place of consumption.

In December 2012 the government approved the “Second Law Concerning Measures to Accelarate the Expansion of the Electricity Grids (Zweiten Gesetzes über Maßnahmen zur Beschleunigung des Netzausbaus Elektrizitätsnetze, ref. no. 17/12638), which includes provisions on the “Federal Requirement Plan for Transmission Networks”. They contain 36 extra-high voltage line projects which are considered necessary and urgent in the sense of the EnWG. 21 of the projects cross the borders of the federal German states or national borders. For these projects the Federal Network Agency shall be the only competent planning authority, the explanatory memorandum points out (According to Section 2 para. 2 NABEG, however, the respective ordinance that is required needs consent by the federal states). Other projects are designated as pilot projects for low-loss transmission of electricity over long distances, underground power cables or superconducting cables (high-temperature superconductors). In order to speed up construction, the bill also stipulates that in case of legal action brought against the power line projects, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig shall be the only legal instance to review the matter.

Building the power lines contained in the requirement plan would cost an estimated EUR 10 billion, not including the costs for underground cables, the government says.

The opposition criticises the delayed grid expansion, pointing out that only 214 km of the 1,834 km new power lines that receive priority treatment under the Energy Line Extension Act (EnLAG) have been built so far. They call for a state-owned grid company (Alliance ’90/The Greens) respectively a joint grid company (Deutsche Netz AG) with the four current TSOs and the German state as shareholders (Social Democrats).

Source: Bundestag