Merkel backs HVDC wind links

Chancellor Angela Merkel has rebuffed calls from her Bavarian coalition partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU) for a moratorium on the construction of major high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) transmission lines slated to cross Germany in coming years.

“We’re all in agreement that there will be HVDC lines,” Merkel was quoted as saying during a weekend meeting of her Christian Democratic Party (CDU) by the AFP news wire.

Merkel stressed that German state premiers overwhelmingly agreed last year to plans to build the transmission lines that are aiming to transport energy from coastal and offshore wind parks in the north to industrial centres in southern Germany, where several nuclear plants will be switched off in coming years.

Pressured by not-in-my-backyard protest groups and upcoming local elections in his state, Bavarian state premier and CSU leader Horst Seehofer last week called for a moratorium on the construction of major lines crossing his state.

CSU politicians argue that a draft reform to Germany’s Renewable Energies Act proposed by SPD energy minister Sigmar Gabriel has altered the business case for the transmission projects.

While plans for the HVDC lines will continuously be re-examined, it is very likely that the outcome of the verification will be that plans remain unaltered, Merkel said. A moratorium certainly is no answer to the lack in approval among the population, she stressed.

“We can’t start only in 2018 to talk about the plan for HVDC lines,” Merkel said.

Germany is phasing out nuclear power by 2022. Heavily industrialised southern German states such as Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg are still dependent on nuclear power for their energy supply, while transmission capacity from the windy North of the country remains insufficient.

The reaction by the Social Democratic partner in Berlin to Seehofer’s call for a transmission moratorium ramped up the tone in the growing conflict within the governing coalition.

“To make the republic crazy and risk the future of the economy just out of fear of the municipal elections in Bavaria, even for Horst Seehofer is a hitherto unmatched level of political fury (madness),” SPD general secretary Yasmin Fahimi told the Spiegel Online website.