When people talk about the energy transition in Germany, they often refer to Germany as a “copper plate”. At least electrical engineers will know what is meant: the “copper plate” is a synonym for an ideal electricity grid in Germany – copper cables are commonly used in the grid. That means an ideal electricity grid, which would make it easy to send even extremely large quantities of electricity from Northern Germany to the south or from east to west - or vice versa. In a European context, cross-border energy transport is often the goal – electricity can be delivered from Scandinavia to Spain to or via Germany.
This ideal copper plate does not actually exist yet. It faces challenges due to the costs, regional planning, and from the population itself who do not welcome new high voltage lines. National and state politics have to find the right balance. We need a powerful energy network that can cope with the challenges of future climate protection and the need to modernise the energy industry intelligently. As a result, politicians took an important step five years ago by defining a grid development plan to modernise the energy environment and expand renewable energy sources.
However, in the amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act in July, politicians basically abandoned this strict systematics just a few years after its introduction. Based on the current and impending grid bottlenecks, it decided to slow down the expansion of onshore and offshore wind energy in Northern Germany. We are not trying to deny that there are grid bottlenecks today. However, with clever real-time monitoring for better grid utilisation today, intelligent bottleneck management and targeted grid expansion, the energy losses can be minimised effectively and acceptably.
The future grid bottlenecks are primarily caused by political resolutions on underground cabling and now, a temporary situation with bottlenecks has been overrated in the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) and made the number one priority. As the (renewable) energy industry has to work with long investment cycles, it is unclear what effects the de facto abandonment of an ambitious grid expansion plan will have, based on the maxim “the grid paves the way for future generation growth”. Binding expansion of the infrastructure is the essential if the energy transition is to remain successful in the electricity sector!