19 May 2021, 13:40
Kerstine Appunn

Pandemic slows German grid planning but central powerlines show progress

Clean Energy Wire

Project planning for additional powerlines in Germany has been slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic as many public consultations were postponed or held online, Jochen Homann, president of the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA), said during the agency’’s annual report presentation on Wednesday. Of the total 7,783 kilometres of the 65 ongoing grid expansion projects, 734 kilometres were approved or under construction and around 1,600 kilometres of power lines had been completed by the end of 2020. A total of around 3,524 kilometres of power lines were in the approval process, according to the report. In total, an estimated investment of up to 102 billion euros is needed for electricity grids on land by 2030 – 55 billion euros for the transmission grid and 47 billion euros for the distribution grids. While two of the much-needed North-South “power highways” have reached the final planning stage (Suedlink, SuedOstLink), two other direct-current connections are facing delays due to further consultations, Homann said.

He also announced that the BNetzA is currently working on a new monitoring report of supply security in Germany, looking both at power generation capacity – including the contribution from other countries – and the capabilities of the power grid. “The famous ‘dark, dead calm’, which is discussed again and again, interests us less than a situation where a very abundant supply of electricity puts the grid under pressure,” Homann said. “In the foreseeable future, our assessment is that security of supply is not in danger, at least for the time we can currently assess,” he added. Homann explained that Germany has always had good experiences with electricity imports and exports; that an integrated European power system was a way to ensure a secure supply, and that “it wouldn’t be smart” if Germany tried to fend for itself.

Germany’s plan to shut down nuclear and coal power stations in favour of renewable sources such as wind and solar PV has worried some critics that the country won’t have enough stable power capacity. At the same time, the construction of new power lines to bring wind energy from the North to the industrial West and South of the country is making slow progress. However, most experts – like the BNetzA – agree that the power system will remain stable throughout the energy transition, with some arguing that additional back-up capacities from gas-fired power stations will be necessary.

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