June 22, 2016 / 3:11 PM / 3 years ago

German power grid bottlenecks hamper imports from Nordics

* Danes say their main power gateway into Germany is blocked

* Local German transport links to arrive only by 2020

* One of many problem areas identified by EU grid lobby

FRANKFURT/BRUSSELS, June 22 (Reuters) - German consumers are losing out as delays in installing cross-country wind power lines are curbing Germany’s ability to import cheaper electricity from Nordic countries, Danish producers say.

Germany’s biggest grid operator TenneT has delayed major power lines, to bring wind power from the north to the industrialised south - where nuclear plants are being shut down - by three years to 2025.

More time is needed for legislation to put lines underground to quell residents’ opposition. But the delay means German grids are clogging up as the country has ramped up its own wind power output in recent years and that gets grid priority, leaving less room for cross-border volumes coming in from Scandinavia.

“Power prices in Germany are higher than in the Nordics. If more exports from Denmark were allowed, it would reduce prices in Germany and that would benefit German consumers,” said Carsten Chachah, senior adviser at the Dansk Energi association.

“Today, they are losing out,” he added.

TenneT TSO GmbH, the German arm of the Dutch TenneT BV group, and western German peer Amprion have said there is no alternative if a shift to renewable energy is to succeed, but the situation is thwarting European plans for a single energy market.

The European umbrella group for grid companies, ENTSO-E, in a 10-year network development plan published in Brussels on Wednesday, said Europe’s grids must be extended to help harmonise markets.

Western Denmark’s Jutland peninsula used only 5 percent of potentially 1,800 megawatts (MW) of export capacity to Germany in the first quarter of 2016, down from 13 percent in 2015 and 28 percent in 2014, data from Dansk Energi shows.

The Jutland route represents around 40 percent of potential Nordic power export capacity to west Europe. Apart from holding back Danish exports, its underutilisation also has negative repercussions on southbound power flows out of Sweden and Norway.

Yet Nordic hydroelectric power would be cheaper than Germany’s domestic production, dominated by coal, gas and subsidised wind and solar power.

As well as being held up by opposition from residents and red tape, the north-south lines will cost more than forecast, Germany’s big three grid operators, which also include 50Hertz in eastern Germany, have warned.

Germany has built ever more wind turbines in recent years, as Berlin targets 40 to 45 percent renewable power share by 2025 to help fight climate change. But the delays to the new power lines mean the north of Germany has excess wind power supply while the south risks suffering shortages for some time to come.

“It is true that the maximum export capacity from the Nordics into Germany can barely be tapped,” said a spokeswoman for TenneT in Germany, which is in charge of a corridor running from Denmark to the very south of the country.

“This is due to the accelerating wind power expansion. But new local lines will be ready by 2020.”

This includes a 120-kilometre line along the west coast of Germany’s northern Schleswig-Holstein state and another 150-km one, from Hamburg to Kassoe in Denmark.

The spokeswoman said TenneT was in regular discussion with its Danish peer and with regulators in both countries.

The European Commission is seeking to mediate the issues between the member states, a Commission source told Reuters.

ENTSO-E also said there were many other bottleneck areas in the 35 European countries it represents, among them the Iberian peninsula, which has limited connection with France. (Reporting by Vera Eckert, Nerijus Adomaitis, Alissa de Carbonnel and Geert de Clercq; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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