Wednesday 26 October 2016

Nein danke: why energy-hungry Germans are windy about accepting Danish power

Jesper Starn and Weixin Zha

Published 13/04/2015 | 02:30

Turbine parts at a pre-assembly facility in Esbjerg, Denmark (Freya Ingrid Morales/Bloomberg)
Turbine parts at a pre-assembly facility in Esbjerg, Denmark (Freya Ingrid Morales/Bloomberg)

The Danes generate excess wind power. The Germans are seeking to ramp up their use of clean-energy sources.

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It should be a perfect match but, in a growing spat that is undermining the EU's €150bn programme to strengthen the bloc's electricity links, leaders in Bavaria and other German regions are turning down wind power from the north.

Their biggest objection is aesthetics, as new power lines would have to be put up across centuries-old German towns to bring in more of the electricity.

For the wind companies, the losses are adding up. The Danish Energy Association estimates that Nordic generators are missing out on €82bn in annual sales as the Germans reject as much as 71pc of the electricity being sent from mainland Denmark. "What's taking place on the interconnectors goes against all the vision of the internal market - free flow of goods and services across borders," said Carsten Chachah, a senior adviser at the association. "The problem is getting worse." The opposition is strongest in Bavaria, Germany's largest state and home to companies including Allianz, BMW and Siemens.

It has the biggest share of Germany's solar power production and wants to have generating plants fuelled by natural gas make up the gap in electricity production when the sun isn't shining. Protesters argue that new power lines would be eyesores as well as health hazards.

Heiko Hain, mayor of Weissdorf, said the high-voltage lines needed to ease the jam in the north would be a blight on his 14th-century town, 500km south of the Danish border.

"We aren't convinced the line is needed and instead support local generation," Mr Hain said. "It could go through a sports field and residential areas and make it hard to plan industrial development."

Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, also opposes the north-south lines in his state and over 90 protest groups have sprouted in Germany.

Their opposition is at odds with the EU's goal to double interconnection capacity by 2030, according to the European Network of Transmission System Operators.

Germany must spend at least €22bn on its network by 2025 to cope with the biggest clean-energy push of any industrialised nation. The plan includes shutting all nuclear plants by 2022 and building lines connecting the windy north to the south.

"The problem is it takes so long to build these lines due to local political opposition," said Fabian Grote, an industrial engineer hired by grid operators in Germany and Denmark. "Bavaria especially would rather have its own gas power plants to ensure security of supply than these big high-voltage lines."

Germany and Scandinavia, power-trading partners since the 1960s, have earmarked at least €2.8bn for more links. Denmark is planning a 700-megawatt upgrade to its western cable and is working on a 400-megawatt connector from eastern Denmark by 2019. Norway plans to build a 1,400-megawatt cable to Germany by 2020. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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