German cabinet agrees to expand power grid faster

BERLIN Wed Dec 19, 2012 5:17am EST

BERLIN Dec 19 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet agreed on Wednesday to accelerate the construction of 2,800 kilometres of new high-voltage power lines to help push forward the country's shift to renewable energy.

Under the plans, the new transmission lines will be completed w ithi n four years from a previously planned 10 years.

The cabinet agreed on the nationwide plan which will prioritise the construction of lines m ainly to transport power from wind turbines near the coast and offshore to industrial areas in southern and western Germany.

The investment will cost about 10 billion euros ($13.21 billion).

Germany's ambitious switch to renewable power sources is part of Merkel's major policy reversal last year following the Fukushima disaster to switch off nuclear plants more quickly than previously planned.

However, one obstacle in achieving her targets for renewable power is the limited capacity and routing of the existing grids.

Therefore, in addition to the new lines, the existing high voltage g rid will also be expanded by about 1,500 kilometres.

The planned law aims to speed up the grid construction by placing limits on what legal options opponents can take. Local resistance to grid expansion has been a major headache.

In a crucial step, Germany's 16 federal states have signalled that they will let the Bundesnetzagentur federal grid regulator coordinate plans, ra ther than insisting on individual processing, which lengthens time spans.

The task list is even longer : Distribution grids that take power from high voltage networks served by big power stations and transport it to consumers must al so b e adapted to cope with an increasing number of wind and solar power installations. [ID: nL5E8MQAG7]

Economy minister Philipp Roesler said the cabinet's agreement was a vital step in Germany's ambitious switch to renewable energy away from nuclear power.

"It shows that we are absolutely on time with the expansion of the grid. This is a huge step in the expansion of the grid, a huge step for the switch to renewables," he said. ($1 = 0.7568 euros) (Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Noah Barkin)

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