(Adds dropped word “power” in headline)
By Gernot Heller
BERLIN, June 5 (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel’s plan to replace nuclear power with renewable sources could fail unless Germany’s federal states pool responsibility for the construction of a national grid, the head of the power network regulator said on Tuesday.
The Bundesnetzagentur has offered to take national responsibility for the grid which crosses borders between the 16 states in Europe’s biggest national power market.
“We believe there must be a single system for power lines of national significance,” said regulator chief Jochen Homann at a congress, adding that if accountability was unclear, decisions would be passed back and forth and delayed.
“We and the government are prepared to take this responsibility,” said Homann.
The regulator argues that without an expansion of the grid, little progress in the renewable sector will be made.
Since Merkel’s abrupt policy reversal last year to shut more than half a dozen nuclear plants and speed up the phasing out of other nuclear plants following Japan’s Fukushima disaster, her government has failed to set out a clear path to manage the shift to renewable power.
Industry has warned of power shortages, consumers and companies fear soaring prices and firms are struggling to find the financing to invest in renewable sources.
Inadequate transportation and distribution networks are among the main obstacles in boosting renewable sources and local opposition has resulted in some state governments dragging their feet in moving ahead with the much-needed grid expansion.
Last week the government, the regulator and transmission grid firms outlined a 20-billion euro plan to upgrade the grid in the next decade.
Power grid firm TenneT TSO has said Germany needs to build 2,100 kilometres of direct current lines and 1,700 km of alternating current while 4, 40 0 km of ex isting power lines need modernising.
In particular, offshore wind parks, seen as a pillar of the so-called green revolution, are experiencing problems as firms need an expanded network to get power to the mainland. Plans to build 10,000 MW of offshore wind parks by 2020 look in doubt.
Homann said one of the main hurdles for offshore wind was the insufficient financial might of grid operators. But he also said he knew of potential investors, some from abroad, who had the necessary financial clout and were prepared to invest.
“That is the actual solution,” said Homann.
On Monday German industry urged the government to push on quickly with its plans to boost power derived from renewable sources to 35 percent by 2020 from 20 percent now and ensure there were no power shortages in the meantime.
“Things have to move forward at last,” said Hans-Peter Keitel, head of the BDI industry group, which is carrying out studies to monitor progress in government policymaking.
“More time and energy should not be wasted,” he said. (Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Greg Mahlich)