The grid expansion debate: the issues at stake

Learning from the public consultation on the German network development plan, SEFEP staff: Raffaele Piria, December 2012

This paper analyses the arguments presented by a broad range of stakeholders in the public consultation on the first German electricity transmission grid development plan (NEP), during the summer of 2012.

The core of the study consists of an analysis of several hundreds of the around 2000 submissions from the public consultation on the NEP draft. The analysis spells out the key issues emerging from the consultation. In the conclusions, implications from the German experience for the European context are drawn. 

Grid planning is neither a merely technical debate, nor is it only about grids. Grid planning depends on assumptions and decisions regarding the future architecture of the electricity system, and has strong implications for the generation mix, for relative economic and market power, and for environmental and social impacts of the future power system.

Thus, the public consultation on the German NEP 2012, is a key element of the societal and political process around the German “Energiewende”. In its breadth and depth, the German grid expansion debate is a so far unique and innovative experience.

Some of the key findings:

· None of the organisations that submitted comments questioned the overall direction and timetable of the Energiewende: nuclear phase-out by 2022, massive expansion of renewables and the fulfilment of Germany’s ambitious climate targets. 

· Despite of this general consensus, there were widely ranging and partly contradictory views on the NEP assumptions concerning the pace of renewables deployment, as well as their geographical distribution and technical mix.

· A large number of stakeholders criticised that the NEP proposes more additional transmission capacities than really needed, particularly as other flexibility options were insufficiently considered. 

· Criticism also related to the disregard of the distribution grid as well as bottom-up approaches. Specific key transmission corridors were discussed critically.

· Another key point of discussion is the implicit assumption in the NEP that the transmission grid must be strong enough to avoid congestions at any hour of the year, effectively functioning as a copperplate able to integrate any expectable generation mix 

· The overall process was welcomed as major step forward, though improvements were also claimed for, particularly regarding the transparency of underlying data

The paper can be downloaded here. Contact: Raffaele Piria (email, website).

Document Actions