Community ownership of grids
The government of the northernmost German state of Schleswig-Holstein and grid operator Tennet have launched a unique project to combat NIMBYism against new power lines. Now, citizens will be able to purchase shares of new power lines along the western coast. The project is the first implementation of a proposal made by German Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier last fall.
Tennet says that up to 15 percent of the total investment in the 150 kilometers of new lines between Niebüll and Brunsbüttel will be open to small investors. At present, the firm says that roughly 40 million euros in shares could be opened up to the public. A single share will go for 1,000 euros, and the return is expected to be between 4.5 and five percent – only half of the more than nine percent profit that German grid regulator Network Agency guarantees for grid investments. In the second quarter, local banks are expected to start selling shares.
Citizens who live directly along the power lines are to receive preferred treatment. In addition, the smallest investors are to have priority over those wishing to invest larger sums in order to allow as many people as possible to take part. After all, the main goal is to reduce NIMBYism by allowing as many people as possible to benefit. Tennet also says it hopes to increase public acceptance in a "broad dialogue process" to ensure that the final route chosen impacts as few citizens as possible.
Tennet's executive director Lex Hartmann calls the pilot project "pioneering" and says it could serve as a model for grid expansion throughout the country. The German government estimates that some 10 and 20 billion euros will need to be invested in expanding the transit grid by 2022; though that level of investment sounds high, it is actually not higher than previous annual investments. Last fall, Altmaier proposed that local citizens be allowed to buy shares of such projects.
He later sent a position paper on the proposal to the country's four transit grid operators, none of which are owned by the German government. Altmaier proposed that 15 percent of the total project value be set aside for small investors, especially those living along the power lines, with shares starting at 500 euros to allow low-income families to take part.
Tennet does not, however, believe that citizen investments would also be useful for costly offshore wind farms. "For offshore grid connections, we are looking for large investors with deep pockets," says Tennet spokesperson Ulrike Hörchens. (Denny Gille / Craig Morris)