30 Apr 2024, 13:10
Carolina Kyllmann

Business alliance calls for prioritisation of overhead power lines over costly underground projects


An alliance of industry associations, trade unions and farmers has called on Germany's government to halt planned underground electricity grid expansion projects and instead build three electricity highways as overhead lines, business daily Handelsblatt reported. In a joint letter seen by the paper, industry federation BDI, farmers' association DBV, trade union DGB and consumer organisation VZBV called on political leaders, including economy minister Robert Habeck and finance minister Christian Lindner, to reassess rules prioritising underground power lines in the country. The alliance argued that underground projects are unnecessarily expensive, and that costs and time could be saved without jeopardising climate targets by building power lines overhead. Additionally, they mentioned that underground cabling leads to considerable interference with nature.

The projects in question are the OstWestLink, NordWestLink and SuedWestLink, all of which are still in the early planning phases. They should help transport electricity from the country's windy north to its industrial south. According to the alliance, switching to overhead lines could save up to 20 billion euros in costs.

Grid expansion threatens to become a major stumbling block to the energy transition with ever more power supply coming from decentralised renewable sources. However, expansion projects were long delayed because of local opposition and public resistance, often because the infrastructure was regarded as an eyesore . Thus, the Federal Requirement Plan Act (Bundesbedarfsplangesetzes), which provides a legal framework for the construction of the high-voltage transmission lines, prioritises underground cables over the construction of visible pylons. Transmissions system operators (TSO) have in the past demanded a change to this legislation.

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