German public rejects TenneT's bid for wind power funding

Tue Dec 3, 2013 8:17am EST

* Raises $1 mln vs $50 mln targeted in campaign costing mlns

* Blames locals' lack of cash, complexity of documentation

By Vera Eckert

FRANKFURT, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Power grid operator TenneT has failed to persuade Germans to fund a wind power line along the North Sea coast, the company said on Friday, raising a fraction of the targeted cash in a campaign that cost it millions.

TenneT signed up just 142 people for a total 833,000 euros ($1,100,000) of shares, having hoped to raise up to 40 million euros, or 15 percent of its total investment budget for a 150-km (90-mile) north-to-south line in Schleswig-Holstein state.

The Dutch state-owned company needs billions of euros to upgrade power lines and lay cables to help Germany's move to renewables and had wanted to get locals on board. With or without that, TenneT is locked into the switch from nuclear energy - its lines cover 40 percent of the country.

People were either too short of money, saw it as too risky or did not like the deal's complexity - made necessary because of specifications under financial law, TenneT said.

"We don't see this as a failure and believe our experience is valuable enough for the new government to further develop the idea of citizen participation," a TenneT spokeswoman said.

The line is part of a national grid expansion plan pursued by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government mainly to bring wind power from the north to consumers in the south.

TenneT had invited 160,000 households near the planned line to sign up for investments of a minimum 1,000 euros each, and related campaigns, road shows, adverts and administration had cost TenneT less than 10 million euros, the spokeswoman said.

The German government in July officially backed plans for so-called citizen's bonds to be issued to the public, to raise money and stimulate acceptance for the energy switch.

This and other schemes were hotly debated in the run-up to national polls in September, with some analysts and consumer groups saying they saw poor returns and risks.

"Unlike savings deposits, these investment propositions are not totally secured against total loss," said Guenter Hoermann, managing director of the consumer association of Schleswig-Holstein's port city of Hamburg.

Hoermann also said investors did not like the fact that they could not withdraw cash from the scheme except by selling the bonds through an exchange. "It is uncertain what they would be getting at that moment," he said.

By contrast, more than a million Germans own wind or solar power units or shares in municipal and co-operative schemes to operate power plants and grids.

Mel Kroon, chief executive of the Dutch publicly listed parent company, told Reuters last month he remains on the look-out for partnerships and institutional investors. ($1 = 0.7377 euros) (Editing by Louise Ireland)

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