RPT-UPDATE 1-Merkel vows to push post-nuclear energy strategy

Wed May 23, 2012 11:13am EDT

* Few concrete results from Merkel talks with state premiers

* Merkel wants to rescue stalled plans to boost renewables

* Fears of power gap after accelerated nuclear phase-out due to Fukushima

* Priorities include grid expansion, solar incentive cuts

By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN, May 23 (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with Germany's state premiers on Wednesday to step up efforts to expand the power grid and resolve a dispute over solar incentives as she tries to rescue plans for a switch away from nuclear to renewable energy.

Merkel said her vision for an energy shift in Europe's biggest economy would require a lot of work and coordination but all parties at the three-hour talks in Berlin had vowed to work together despite clashing interests.

"The energy switch is a Herculean task which we are all committed to," Merkel said after the meeting with Germany's 16 regional leaders, adding that participants agreed energy supply must be secure, environmentally sustainable and affordable.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us but we agreed to work together," Merkel told reporters.

Since Merkel's abrupt policy reversal last year to shut more than half a dozen nuclear plants and speed up the nuclear phase-out after Japan's Fukushima disaster, her government has failed to set out a clear plan to manage the shift.

Industry has warned of power shortages and companies are experiencing problems with plans for offshore wind power due partly to the insufficient grid network.

Merkel suffered another setback earlier this month when proposed cuts in subsidies for the solar industry were suspended by the Bundesrat upper house, where the federal states are represented, meaning weeks more of tortuous negotiations.

The chancellor stressed she wanted to get a swift deal on the planned cuts to solar feed-in-tariffs of between 20 and nearly 40 percent.

"Time is pressing. We have set up a working group and we are aiming for an agreement before the summer break," said Merkel.

States which have built up strong solar industries oppose the cuts, saying they will destroy jobs and hit local economies.

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