The German Federal Ministry of Economics presented cornerstones for a Law on the Acceleration of Grid Expansion ("NABEG") during the Special Energy Council in Brussels in March this year. The Law is intended – as other infrastructure-acceleration laws, such as the Law on the Expansion of Power Lines ("EnLAG"), before it were – to promote the expansion of the electricity grids in an accelerated manner. It has been known for several years and is no longer seriously being disputed that the expansion of the electricity grids is desperately necessary. In that regard, the necessity for expansion has still increased considerably over the last few years in view of the substantial increase in the feed-in of renewable energies into the electricity grids.

The major goal of the NABEG is accelerating the approval procedure - even further than with the EnLAG, which continues to exist – with the aid of the following steps:

  • Federal Technical Planning and Federal Grid Plan

In view of the outstanding and nation-wide importance of grid expansion to future energy supply, existing competences of the federal states in approval procedures are intended to be abolished an a uniform federal approval procedure is intended to be introduced. In this context, there is to be Federal Technical Planning, which is carried out by the Federal Network Agency merely in coordination with the respective states. The Federal Grid Plan is intended to be drawn up as a result of the Federal Technical Planning, in which the route corridors necessary for the construction of high-voltage transmission lines are designated and reserved on a nation-wide level.

  • More participation and transparency

A financial compensation mechanism is introduced for the impairments occurring in the course of transmission-line expansion which have to be suffered by the affected communities in the interest of the common good. Moreover, there are improved participation rights for citizens in the context of grid development plans. An information offensive of the Federal Government, among others, is intended to promote communication and transparency as regards grid expansion.

  • Grid expansion for offshore wind energy

The expansion of offshore wind energy is intended to be promoted by rapid and economically efficient connection of offshore wind parks, the collective connection of offshore wind parks is intended to be incorporated in the law and an ideal coordination of offshore expansion is intended to be ensured by an offshore master plan.

  • Promotion of cross-border electricity connections

Clear legal framework conditions for the construction of cross-border electricity lines are intended to aid European grid expansion and thus electricity trading between the European member states. Incentives for integrating the internal market for electricity are intended to be created particularly with a view to the costs and conditions for connection to the individual transmission grids.

  • Relieving the planning authorities

Using the example of the Federal Building Code (BauGB) Authorities are intended to be able to call in private project managers with formal processes in the future in order to gain corresponding freedom in that way.

  • Simplification of approval procedures

In order to accelerate the carrying out of procedures, approval formats which have differed so far are intended to be simplified; uniform approval procedures are created for overhead lines and buried cables on the 110 kV level.

  • Promotion of new storages for grid relief

The construction of new storages is promoted in order to relieve the grid as well as integrate renewable energies. New storages are particularly intended to be exempt from the payment of grid fees for twice as long as until now, i.e. for 20 years in the future.

In addition to the NABEG, a catalogue of non-statutory measures is intended to promote the expansion of the grid, among other things for the purpose of improving regulatory framework conditions in order to manage the investments for forced grid expansion and to further promote the field of research and innovations.

Even if the basic aim of accelerating the planning procedure for the benefit of the desperately necessary grid expansion has to be appreciated, it remains to be seen – in view of the stipulations, which are sometimes too vague or not sufficiently extensive – whether the law will actually be able to reach that defined goal.