Environment Minister Altmaier Wants to Encourage Citizen Participation in Financing of New Power Lines

In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier suggested to raise public acceptance for the much needed new power lines in Germany by offering the public the possibility to invest in new power lines. Such investments should be possible with small amounts of money for which an interest rate of 5% could be paid.

Mr Altmaier’s proposal was made in an interview that dealt with the challenges of the German energy policy shift away from nuclear power towards a renewable energy supply. A coordinated and gradual grid expansion that focused first on the most important power lines that could transmit wind power from the wind farms that are currently being planned and constructed in the North and Baltic Sea to consumers in the industrial regions of Southern and Western Germany was of urgent priority, Mr Altmaier pointed out. He added that for a transitional period also lines for conventionally generated electricity were needed.

Grid expansion is Germany is however lagging behind the enormous growth of renewable energy capacities in Germany in the recent past.

Mr Altmaier’s suggestion to involve citizens in grid expansion is inspired by community wind farms, which are owned and operated by groups of citizens, who can often become shareholders by making comparatively small investments. He was thinking of issuing shares in the amount of EUR 500, firstly to citizens living close to the new power line, secondly persons living in communities affected by new power lines and thirdly all other interested parties, Mr Altmaier said. Since the grid operators were required to borrow capital, about 15% of the money needed for new power line projects could thus be raised by involving interested citizens. In view of about EUR 30 billion for the expansion of transmission grids alone, this would be roughly EUR 5 billion, Mr Altmaier said. With grid operators receiving an interest rate of about 9%, a 5% interest rate for participating citizens was realistic, Mr Altmaier argued.

Mr Altmaier called grid expansion including the Federal Requirement Plan for Transmission Networks, which the government still needs to pass, and the above described citizen involvement one of his two top priorities before the Federal Election in 2013. The other was reaching a coordinated approach for the implementation of the German Energiewende (turnaround in the energy policy) between the German Federation and the German federal state, he said.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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