Residents oppose new grid link needed for German energy transition

Jan. 31, 2014 at 12:03 AM
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KULMBACH, Germany, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A planned high-voltage power line seen as a key element of Germany's energy transition this week drew protests from Bavarians along its proposed route.

More than 1,000 people Tuesday crowded into the town hall in Kulmbach, Germany, about 70 miles north of Nuremburg, to voice angry opposition to plans from grid operators Amprion and 50Hertz to build a 280-mile high-voltage transmission line in southern Germany.

The companies say the link is essential to bringing renewable energy sources in northern Germany to the south by 2022.

An Amprion representative was lustily booed while residents held up signs denouncing the transmission line as a "monster route" and urging "Enough!" the Thuringer Allgemeine reported.

"We are afraid that our village will not be worth living in," Anke Grabner, a resident of Speichersdorf in the Bayreuth district, told the newspaper, asserting the line will "completely spoil" the landscape of the town.

Her husband Jochen compared the planned route with an intercity express train "which rushes past us -- and we have none of [the benefits]."

Others said they feared health risks from magnetic fields and decreased home values, and voiced concerns for their children's future.

Ramlesreuth, Germany, resident Albert Hader wore a red safety vest and blew a whistle as part of protest outside the Kulmbach town hall, telling the Suddeutsche Zeitung, "I could not believe that something like this will be decided over our heads."

Julia Esser of the German Federal Network Agency -- the authority that must approve the line -- told the crowd she welcomed the fact Amprion was seeking dialogue and asserted nothing had been planned "in private."

She was booed and called a liar, the newspaper said.

Dubbed the South-East Direct Current Passage, the transmission line is one of a series of high-voltage links deemed essential for Germany to transition away from nuclear power to renewable energy sources.

The government says the effort is needed because while the majority of the country's wind power potential is in and around the North and Baltic seas, the energy is most needed in the distant southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, home to the country's heavy industries.

Backers say the $1.37 billion South-East Direct Current Passage, which would run from the state of Saxony-Anhalt to Bavaria, would address one of the transmission bottlenecks in southern Germany that need to be overcome to eventually move renewable energy supplies from north to south.

"The South-East Direct Current Passage is not only of central importance to ensure the future security of supply in Germany, particularly in Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg, but also for Germany's neighboring countries in the east," Amprion said in a statement.

Flows from northeastern to southern Germany and on to Poland and the Czech Republic "can be better controlled in the future and the transmission systems can be relieved again to some extent," it said.

But local opposition to the new lines is proving to be intense, with citizens' initiatives and protests quickly emerging and local politicians of all parties following suit as elections near.

Uwe Brandl, the Christian Social Union mayor of Abensberg, Germany, and president of the Bavarian Municipalities association, told Suddeutsche Zeitung political pressure is mounting to oppose to the line.

"There is no mayor who feels sufficiently informed," he said. "This applies to all of them, along the entire route."

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