A plan for an 800km "transmission highway”, deemed necessary for Germany's energy transition, is being endangered by local protests and state politics.
The high-voltage direct-current
(HVDC) SuedLink line proposed by transmission system
operators (TSOs) TenneT and TransnetBW is one of three major transmission highways 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.
“The [southern] federal states of
Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse in 2023 will have to import some 30% of
their annual electricity consumption,” says Rainer Joswig, a member of the
“But wind energy that is
supposed to supplant nuclear power is being produced predominantly at the coasts
to the north. SuedLink thus forms the backbone of a secure power supply in
Last year, Germany’s parliament
approved a €10bn ($13.5bn) plan to speed up the construction of
36 high-voltage lines, among them the three HVDC lines from north to
The plan was also approved
by the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which now governs together with
the previously opposition Social Democrats (SPD).
But maverick CSU leader
and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer, in a sudden turnaround, is now demanding a
moratorium on the HVDC projects, which have led to vociferous "not in my backyard"
protests throughout his state.
Nimby groups in Bavaria
warn that the “killer lines” will harm the health of their children, and
allege that they won’t only transport wind energy to the south, but also
electricity from heavily polluting lignite-fired power plants in eastern
Germany. Protests are also intensifying in other states.
call for a moratorium, TenneT and TransnetBW said they will postpone public
hearings on the proposed course of SuedLink until politicians at state and
federal level give clear backing to the project. The TSOs also say the
exact course of the planned HVDC line isn’t set in stone yet.
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. Gabriel’s ministry and
northern states have already rejected that notion.
Gabriel is proposing steep cuts in support and caps on onshore wind.
The new CDU/CSU/SPD coalition government in Berlin has also scaled back
Germany’s offshore ambitions.