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As Germans Block Danish Wind, A New Feud Tests Crisis-Weary EU

Jesper StarnWeixin Zha, Bloomberg

The Danes generate excess wind power. The Germans, their neighbors, are seeking to ramp up their use of clean-energy sources. A perfect match, right?

Not quite. In a growing spat that is undermining the European Union’s 150 billion euro ($160 billion) program to strengthen the bloc’s electricity links, leaders in Bavaria and other German regions are turning down wind power from the north. Their biggest objection is the aesthetics of it all: New transmission lines would have to be put up across centuries-old German towns to bring in more of the electricity. 

For the wind companies, the losses are starting to add up. The Danish Energy Association estimates that Nordic generators are missing out on $87 million in annual sales as the Germans reject as much as 71 percent of the electricity being sent over from mainland Denmark.

“What’s taking place on the interconnectors goes against all the vision of the internal market — free flow of goods and services across borders,” Carsten Chachah, a senior adviser at the Danish Energy Association, said April 9 by phone. “The problem is getting worse.”

The opposition is strongest in Bavaria, Germany’s largest state and home to companies including Allianz SE, BMW AG and Siemens AG. It has the biggest share of Germany’s solar power production and wants to have generating plants fueled by natural gas make up the gap in electricity production when the sun isn’t shining. Protesters argue that new power lines would be eyesores as well as health hazards.

Mayor’s Opposition

Heiko Hain, mayor of Weissdorf, said the high-voltage lines needed to ease the jam in the north would be a blight on his 14th-century town, located 500 kilometers (300 miles) south of the Danish border.

“We aren’t convinced the line is needed and instead support local generation,” Hain said by phone. “It could go through a sports field and residential areas and make it hard to plan industrial development.”

Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, a political ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, also opposes the north-south lines in his state and more than 90 protest groups have sprouted across the country. Their opposition is at odds with the EU’s vision of stronger electricity links among the bloc’s 28 states. The goal is to double interconnection capacity by 2030, according to the European Network of Transmission System Operators.

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