Federal Cabinet Approves More Underground Cable

On 7 October the Federal Cabinet (Bundeskabinett) approved changes of draft bill amending various laws concerning power line extension. The draft bill inter alia gives priority to underground cables instead of overhead lines in case of new high-voltage, direct current transmission lines (HVDC).

Yesterday’s decision paves the way for a faster and supposedly more accepted grid expansion. This shall lead to more acceptance, as in many places residents raised major concerns against overhead lines, Federal Minister of Economics, Sigmar Gabriel said.

1. Priority of Underground Cabling for New HVDC Projects

The draft bill changes the provisions in the  Act on the Federal Requirement Plan (Bundesbedarfsplangesetz – BBPlG). Draft Sec. 3 para 1 BBPlG gives priority to underground cables in case of HVDC projects. Close to residential areas overhead lines shall be in general not admissible (Draft Sec. 3 para 4 BBPlG).

These changes concerns primarily the major north-south routes as SuedLink (South Link) or South East HVDC. Both lines – originally planned as overhead lines – have faced substantial protest of the public, especially in the Federal State of Bavaria. With the amendments pubic acceptance shall improve.

2.  Extension of Pilot Projects for Three-Phase Electric Power Lines 

In opposition to HVDC lines the DC cable projects retain their character as pilot projects. The reason for this difference is that the risks (technical risks and costs risks) of underground cable  are lower for DC transmission. Furthermore less experience exists.

Nevertheless the pilot projects shall be extended. The draft bill lists four projects in the BBPlG where an installation of underground cables is admissible if certain criteria are fulfilled (e.g. short distance to residential buildings: less than 400m in case of a zoning plan, less than 200m in outside areas). The draft BBPlG stipulates that an installation of underground cables is also possible if the criteria for an installation are only fulfilled for a section of the entire power line.

 3. Next Steps

The bill will now undergo the parliamentary process, including readings in the Bundestag. The aim is to conclude the discussions in  autumn, so that the law can enter into force quickly and the necessary planning of the transmission lines can be started or continued swiftly.

Source: Federal Ministry of Economics

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