May 24, 2015 / 3:01 PM / 5 years ago

Germany must bury more power transmission lines - minister

BERLIN, May 24 (Reuters) - Germany Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday the country must lay more power lines underground to take electicity generated by windpower in the north to industry in the south, to overcome opposition along the routes.

In an interview with ZDF television, Gabriel also said that state of Bavaria will have to accept power lines running through the southern German state and could not push them off onto to its neighbouring states of Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg.

“I believe we’re going to have to put considerably more of the transmission lines underground because otherwise more people will oppose the lines,” Gabriel said.

“I believe we need a willingness, in particular the financial willingness, to put more cables underground. The technology for that has improved considerably in recent years.”

Power lines are seen as crucial to Germany’s shift towards generating electricity from renewable sources of energy and away from nuclear and fossil fuels, known as the “Energiewende.”

Political gridlock, however, has cast doubt on whether the lines can be built by 2022 when Germany’s nuclear power plants, mainly located in the south, are scheduled to be decommissioned.

To ensure Bavaria, home to firms such as Siemens and carmaker BMW, has enough power, two “electricity highways” are planned to transport wind energy from the north.

But Bavarian state premier and leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer has questioned the need for the transmission lines, amid complaints from citizens that masts up to 70 metres high could be erected in their backyards.

Bavaria recently suggested moving the power lines to the west so that they would run through Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg instead of Bavaria. The CSU is the sister party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

“That’s rather astonishing because Bavaria agreed last year in the lower house and the upper house of parliament to the routes for the transmission lines,” Gabriel said. “I think we’ve made some proposals to reduce the burdens on Bavaria.”

Gabriel said those plans include using existing power line routes and putting more sections underground.

“What’s not going to happen is to follow a ‘not-in-my-back yard’ principle,” he said. “That won’t work. We’ll try to use existing routes and underground cables. What we can’t do is to move routes to Hesse and Baden-Wuerttenberg.”

The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) has warned delays to grid expansion could turn into the “Achilles’ heel” of the Energiewende and could lead to bottlenecks and electricity shortages. (Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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