* Power companies say local networks as important as big ones
* They publish cost estimate up to 2030
* Plan for big grids shrinks after consultation
* En route to be made law
FRANKFURT, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Germany needs more than 30 billion euros of investment in its local electricity distribution grids in the next two decades to ensure the success of its switch from nuclear to renewable energy, local utility association VKU said.
“VKU estimates that (existing) distribution grids need investments of 25 billion euros ($32 billion) up to 2030,” the group said on Monday.
“On top of that, some 7 billion euros must be spent on building up intelligent grids,” it added.
VKU timed its statement to coincide with the presentation by the energy regulator of a revised national plan to expand high voltage grids, which transmit electricity across the country.
That plan, meant to become law by the end of the year, was presented to the Economy Ministry on Monday after a consultation.
It envisages thousands of kilometres of new high voltage power lines by 2022, to help carry volatile renewable energy, for example offshore wind power, to mainland destinations further south.
VKU said the lower voltage distribution grids, linking the main lines with local consumers and industry, were 50 times longer and their upgrades were just as crucial to the success of the strategy for a greater share of renewables.
“Some 97 percent of green energy installations feed their power into a distribution grid,” said VKU director Hans-Joachim Reck.
This underscored the need to build up smart grids that integrate and distribute the rising influx from solar panels and wind turbines, he said. Smart grids can not only handle flows of power to consumers but can also send locally produced electricity, for example from householders with solar panels, back into the grid.
Following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident last year Germany switched off large parts of its nuclear generation capacity and decided to speed up its politically-inspired move to relying more on renewable energy. By 2020, 35 percent of power is due to be derived from green power.
The revised plan for new transmission line construction was cut by 800 km to 3,000 km of new lines and some 70 planned projects were cut to 50 from the initial plan in May.
Also, the new power “highways” will run in three corridors from north to south, not four, the network regulator said.
The VKU group speaks for 1,400 local utility sector firms that are involved in disseminating, producing and marketing power, often in combination with gas, water and other services. ($1 = 0.7717 euros) (Reporting by Vera Eckert,; Editing by Anthony Barker)