(Adds details on CO2 permits, costs from news conference)
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN Dec 19 German Chancellor Angela Merkel's
cabinet agreed on Wednesday to accelerate the construction of
2,800 km of new high-voltage power lines to push forward the
country's shift to renewable energy.
However, in a sign of the complexities of formulating energy
policy in Europe's biggest power market, two of her ministers
said they had failed to agree a common position on a proposed
reform of Europe's system of permits to cut carbon emissions.
Under the nationwide grid plans, the new transmission lines
will be completed within four years from a previously planned 10
years and cost about 10 billion euros ($13.21 billion).
The cabinet agreed to mainly prioritise the construction of
lines to transport power from wind turbines near the coast and
offshore to industrial areas in southern and western Germany.
Germany's ambitious switch to renewable power sources is the
result of a major policy reversal from Merkel last year. After
the Fukushima disaster in Japan, she decided to speed up the
closure of nuclear plants.
One obstacle in achieving her targets, including a goal for
renewable energy to account for 35 of German power production by
2020 from around 23 percent now - is the limited capacity and
routing of existing grids.
In addition to the new lines, the draft law envisages
expanding existing high voltage grid by about 1,500 km.
"(This agreement) shows that we are absolutely on time with
our plans... This is a huge step in the expansion of the grid, a
huge step for the switch to renewables," said Economy Minister
In a bid to deal with strong local resistance to grid
expansion, the planned law sets limits on the legal options
opponents can pursue.
Another important contribution came from Germany's 16
federal states who signalled they would let the federal grid
operator Bundesnetzagentur coordinate plans, rather than
insisting on individual processing, which causes delays.
However, more needs to be done: Distribution grids that take
power from high voltage networks served by big power stations
and transport it to consumers must also be adapted to cope with
an increasing number of wind and solar power installations.
CO2 PERMIT ROW
At a news conference to discuss progress on Germany's "green
revolution", Roesler and Environment Minister Peter Altmaier
said they were still at odds on EU plans to reform carbon
emissions permits but vowed to talk again next year to try to
find common ground.
The dispute between the ministers, who share responsibility
for energy policy, has been a major factor in holding up any
agreement on an EU proposal to withdraw some emissions permits
from the market to stop a price slump.
Altmaier said he expected the European Commission to make a
new proposal after the European Parliament had dealt with the
subject in February.
"As soon as this proposal is on the table, the German
government will take a view on it," said Altmaier.
Roesler also signalled a willingness to talk.
"We both have the goal that we want a well-functioning
emissions certificate market," he told reporters.
Altmaier backs the EU proposed reform of the Emissions
Trading Scheme (ETS), a main pillar of the bloc's efforts to cut
CO2 emissions, but Roesler opposes meddling in the market.
Benchmark EU carbon prices were up 1.44 percent at 7.03
euros a tonne at about 1150 GMT.
($1 = 0.7568 euros)
(Additional reporting by Markus Wacket, Vera Eckert; Writing by
Madeline Chambers; Editing by Noah Barkin and David Cowell)