One year ago Germany embarked on a new energy strategy, with renewables apparently destined to fill the gap left by the country's planned nuclear phaseout. Now Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to speed up grid expansion.
Germany's solar power plants broke a new world record last weekend. Production reportedly peaked at over 22 gigawatts through the midday hours of Saturday and Sunday – the equivalent of 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity, according to a German renewables think tank.
These figures may be impressive, but the main problem remains unresolved: delivering the power to the customer. On Tuesday German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Germany's Federal Network Agency in Bonn, where she promised to speed up the expansion of the power network for renewables.
"The transition is feasible in the way we decided it a year ago. And of course we will stick to our pledge to phase out nuclear energy by 2022," Merkel said at the Bonn press conference. The chancellor added that reshaping the energy sector was a demanding and exciting project and that the world was keenly following Germany's progress.
Finding power transit routes
Representatives of the four grid operators 50Hertz, Amprion, Tennet and TransnetBW presented the chancellor with the draft of a so-called national grid development plan.
This plan is vital, because insufficient power lines is considered the main bottleneck in bringing about Germany's planned energy transition.
Expanding renewables means that the power generated in Germany's windier northern region needs to be transported to consumers in the country's west and south. But the expansion of the network has been lagging behind demand for years. The construction work is protracted and lasts about ten years on average, with locals often up in arms over the planned routes.
Economy Minister Philipp Rösler stressed how important the plan was - He said the aim was to find the "best possible energy transport routes and speed up construction to improve the connection from north to south."
The grid operators' view
Grid operators say the plan includes crucial measures if a secure power network is to be established over the next decade.
"The better the network and the technology, the more likely it is that we will be able to use the full potential of renewables, guarantee a power supply and keep the costs at an acceptable level," said Environment Minister Peter Altmaier.
'Time is of essence'
Merkel said that the transition had to be accelerated, adding that many projects were behind schedule. According to government data, Germany's power network is currently not cut out for the local power generation of renewables. An additional 1,800 power lines are necessary, and so far only 200 kilometers have been covered.
Author: Klaus Ulrich / nk
Editor: Ben Knight