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ENERGY

Germany starts building 700 km wind energy power line

Construction work has started on the long-delayed 700-kilometre power line that will transfer wind-generated electricity from northern to southern Germany, the economy ministry said Monday, pushed by an energy crisis.

Habeck wind
Economy Minister Habeck (Greens) at a kick-off event for the construction of the first converter for the Suedlink power line in July in Leingarten, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The underground line, SuedLink, is vital for the energy transition as northern Germany has more wind farms than the south, where officials have faced criticism for dragging their feet on building turbines.

In fact, the power line had been due to begin operation in 2022, but works had been held up because of strong opposition from the south, particularly in Bavaria.

An energy crisis sparked by Russia’s war on Ukraine had finally forced southern states to relent.

READ ALSO: Why is Germany running behind schedule on its wind energy rollout?

Construction of the 10-billion-euro project will finally begin with work on a tunnel under the River Elbe, in the northernmost state of
Schleswig-Holstein, the ministry said in a statement.

The line will transfer power to the affluent, energy-hungry southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Scheduled for completion in 2028, the line will have a total transmission capacity of four gigawatts — enough power for about 10 million households.

“With the SuedLink, southern Germany will in future be able to benefit from the large quantity of wind power generated in the north,” said Economy Minister Robert Habeck.

“This will strengthen (energy security) in Germany, and also neighbouring countries.”

Habeck, of the ecologist Green party, added the start of construction was “good news” for the energy transition.

In addition, a major power cable running between northern Germany and Denmark to the north was nearing completion, and is scheduled to be finished next year, the ministry said.

This line will improve the transfer of electricity from regions of Denmark that produce wind power, and strengthen the European grid, it said.

As part of efforts to fight climate change, Europe’s biggest economy is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2045, and has pledged to produce 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Germany is in dire need of extra sources of power — it recently shut down its last nuclear plant and plans to close its final coal-fired power stations in the coming years.

But a study by the German Wind Energy Association released in July showed that, while the country had made progress in expanding onshore wind power capacity, more work is needed to meet key targets.

There has been political resistance to turbines from local communities concerned they could be a blight on the landscape, particularly in southern Germany, meaning far more permits have been issued in the north.

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PRACTICAL TIPS

How a quarter of German households can save on their electricity bills

Customers can save a high three-digit sum on their household electricity costs, according to calculations done by German price comparison portals. Here's why you may want to switch your tariff.

How a quarter of German households can save on their electricity bills

German households are overpaying for electricity by billions of euros each year, according to calculations carried out on the Verivox price comparison portal.

This is because nearly a quarter of households in Germany purchase electricity via the most expensive tariff group from their local supplier – the so-called ‘basic supply’, or Grundversorgung in German.

But in Germany, customers have energy tariff options, and saving hundreds on your energy bill can sometimes be as simple as checking your current tariff online and switching to a cheaper one in a matter of minutes.

Based on approximately ten million households consuming electricity from the basic supply, Verivox calculates that Germans are overpaying by about €5.5 billion annually. That’s because the average difference between basic supply rates and the cheapest local energy rates currently amounts to 20 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

What is the ‘basic supply’ for household energy?

Household electricity in Germany is purchased through different tariffs (Stromtarifs). Through these various tariffs, local energy companies offer different prices for electricity, depending on customer contracts.

The basic supply tariff for electricity can be thought of as the default. When a new house is connected to the energy grid, for example, its electricity will be provided via the basic supply unless the homeowner chooses another tariff option.

READ ALSO: How to change electricity and gas providers in Germany

The basic supply is intended to ensure that everyone has access to electricity, even if they haven’t shopped around for an energy provider on their own. It can also be advantageous in the short term because it can be cancelled at any time, as opposed to other tariffs which typically come with longer contracts.

But the basic supply is comparatively expensive. According to Verivox, basic supply electricity currently goes for an average of 44.36 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), whereas the cheapest available rates on average come to 24.7 cents/kWh across Germany.

How much can you save?

At current rates, you can expect to save about 44 percent on your electricity bill if you switch from basic supply to the cheapest option with a price guarantee. 

That amounts to significant savings, considering that annual electricity costs regularly come to a few thousand euros in German households.

The Hamburger Abendblatt reported that a three-person household consuming 4,000 kWh would save an average of €786.

These prices will vary from provider to provider and from region to region. 

Keep in mind that choosing other tariff options often comes with some additional fees. Still, in many cases taking a look at different electricity tariff options can save households some money.

Also, switching tariffs is different from switching your energy provider. If you currently get basic supply electricity from Vattenfall, for example, you could potentially switch to a different tariff option while maintaining your business with them. But if you are between contracts, or currently on basic supply, you could also consider switching providers.

In this case, a comparison portal like Check24 can be useful to get an idea of which companies offer the best rates.

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