Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) believes that more determination and speed are needed when expanding the power grids in Germany. “The power grid expansion must be carried out and it must be carried out faster than currently planned,” said Habeck on Tuesday at the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for a converter at the starting point of the future 540-kilometer Suedostlink power line in Wolmirstedt near Magdeburg. Electricity is to flow from Saxony-Anhalt to Bavaria via the route from 2027. Habeck said that was five years too late “because we were too undecided”. “Let’s change the indecisiveness now.”

In the converter, a building about the size of a sports hall, alternating current is to be converted into direct current in the future, which can be easily transported over long distances. According to the operator 50Hertz, the capacity corresponds to that of 600 to 700 wind turbines that produce electricity under full load.

The President of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, sees the foundations laid for a faster expansion of the power grid. Müller told the German Press Agency: “Planning new power lines is like a supertanker – the change of course towards faster approvals has been resolutely initiated, but it will take some time before the ship moves in the new direction. The changes in the law will pay off in the future .”

Still a long way to go

The Federal Network Agency is accelerating the process wherever possible, according to Müller. “We plan to issue building permits for well over 2,000 kilometers of lines by the end of 2024.” According to the Federal Network Agency, around 6,100 kilometers of around 14,000 kilometers are currently in the approval process. About 1,200 kilometers have been approved or are under construction and about 2,300 kilometers have been completed.

“We need the large power grids in Germany, otherwise the system cannot function, then equality, including equality of living conditions, cannot be guaranteed,” said Habeck. He praised the fact that the district of Börde approved the construction of the converter within seven months. The record speed is exemplary.

Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff (CDU) emphasized Saxony-Anhalt’s pioneering role in renewable energies. However, since there are a particularly large number of feed-in points here, for example for renewable energy, the highest electricity prices in Germany would result from the regional allocation of grid usage fees. “It can’t stay that way if we want to continue to maintain acceptance,” said Haseloff. Habeck said: “The system is being held up and blocked by a structural error. We punish the regions that actually do what society wants.” A solution must be found.

flexibility required

The background to the south-east link is the energy transition. More electricity is to be generated from renewable energies such as wind, sun, water and biogas. The aim is to significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions in order to limit the consequences of climate change. This requires more flexible systems and storage to compensate for the fluctuating power generation of the weather-dependent wind and solar power plants. The transmission grids are of central importance because electricity is increasingly no longer being generated where it is mainly needed.

The chairman of the 50Hertz management board, Stefan Kapferer, sees growing acceptance of the expansion among people. “We have noticed that acceptance has increased significantly since the Ukraine war. I think it has become clear to many citizens that energy sovereignty also has something to do with the fact that we generate electricity ourselves using renewables and then also have to transport it in the country.” In addition, the Suedostlink is an underground cable project in which the impact on the landscape is significantly reduced.