Green Socialism: Germany May Nationalise Power Grid

  • Date: 18/01/13
  • Frank Dohmen and Gerald Traufetter, Spiegel Online

Germany urgently needs to expand and update its power grid to meet its goal of phasing out nuclear energy and going green, but development appears to have short circuited. A member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet is calling for a radical change: the partial nationalization of the grid.

A member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet is calling for a radical solution to the desperately needed expansion of high-voltage power lines across the country, a critical infrastructure project that has stalled in recent months. Ilse Aigner would like to see the partial nationalization of the country’s electricity grid in order to ensure that massive power lines required to transport green energy from offshore windfarms and other sources to the industry-heavy regions of southern Germany are finally built.

The consumer protection minister, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), seems to have struck a chord with the call, too. Many experts in business and politics believe that Germany would be better off with a national power grid that is partially or even fully owned by the government — especially at a time when the German electricity market will have to be completely revamped because of the Energiewende, Berlin’s policy of phasing out all nuclear power plants by 2022 and ensuring that 80 percent of the country’s electricity supply comes from clean energy by 2050.

It would also constitute the correction of what many consider to have been a historic mistake: the sale in recent years of power grids owned by the major energy companies in Germany like RWE, Vattenfall and E.On. Those divestitures have contributed to an atmosphere that has made it extremely difficult to create the national grid needed to implement the government’s new policy, passed in the wake of the Fukushima catastrophe.

Aigner’s initiative, which the CSU voted to support last week at a closed meeting in the spa town of Wildbad Kreuth, throws the government even more off-course in its clumsy handling of the Energiewende. The minister is playing into the hands of the opposition Social Democrats and their Green Party allies, who have long called for government control of the German power grid.

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