18 Dec 2015 | Kerstine Appunn

Germany passes laws on grid, CHP to keep Energiewende going

Second parliament chamber passes laws for combined heat and power support and new power cables / Progress in grid expansion and more money for efficient power stations will advance energy transition and national climate targets, says energy minister

The second chamber of Germany’s federal legislative (Bundesrat) has passed two new laws on support for combined heat and power (CHP) plants and on underground power cables. With EU approval pending for CHP support measures, they will likely come into effect in the beginning of 2016, the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy said.

After approval from parliament, many laws in Germany also have to pass the second chamber of the  representatives from the 16 states.

Support for CHP plants will be doubled from 750 million euros to 1.5 billion euros per year. “We want to support more natural gas CHP in the future, instead of coal fired CHP plants,” energy minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday. This way efficient combination plants could contribute to Germany reaching its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The Federal Association of CHP (Bundesverband Kraft-Wärme-Kopplung) said that the law would possibly lead to a continuous – albeit slower – development of CHP in Germany. The government had reduced the target for CHP in net power production to 20 percent in 2025 (previously 25 %), the association said.

Despite the overall target of supporting natural gas-fired CHP instead of coal-fired plants, the law allows for the ministry to make by-laws in order to help out hard coal-fired CHP stations that would otherwise become uneconomical. Both supporters of renewable energies and environment activists have criticised this. Municipal utilities who had been worried that their CHP plants wouldn’t be economically viable in the future could put their mind at rest because the new law would secure their existing plants, Gabriel said.

Grid expansion underground

Separately the Bundesrat passed a new power cable law that allows for major power connections to be built as underground cables instead of overland lines. Making underground cables the standard procedure when building new (direct current) “power line highways” in Germany, would increase acceptance among citizens for the project, Gabriel said. “We urgently need progress with the grid expansion if we want to make the energy transition a success both nationally and internationally,” he said. The power line law also fixates the latest grid planning proposals for the next ten years. By 2024 a total of 2,750 km of new grid connections will be required; 3,050 km will have to be refurbished.

NGOs Germanwatch, WWF, NABU and DUH applauded the new law, saying in a joint press release that a fast grid expansion would help to integrate renewables and push back fossil fuel power in the grid. New power lines were needed in Germany to bring the wind power from the windy north to the economic centres in the south.

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