WÖHRDEN (dpa-AFX) - The air hums electrically under the high-voltage lines at the substation near Heide in Schleswig-Holstein. Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) praised the new West Coast line at the just-completed facility and looked ahead: "We are doomed to success," he said of grid expansion during a visit to the substation in Wohrden (Dithmarschen district) on Monday.

Habeck called the Heide area a "hub of the German energy transition." Grid expansion must be significantly accelerated, he said. What has been learned about short planning times with the West Coast line must now be implemented throughout Germany, he said. "We need to halve the planning and approval times for grid expansion," the vice chancellor said.

According to the grid operator Tennet, the West Coast line is about to be put into full operation. It runs from the Danish border via Husum and Heide for just under 140 kilometers to Brunsbüttel. On the first four sections (121 kilometers), the 380 kV overhead line is already transporting electricity from renewable energies to the south. By the end of September, the last kilometers in North Frisia from Klanxbüll to the Danish border should also be completed. Connection to the grid in Denmark is scheduled for next year. "The West Coast is a showcase region for the energy transition in Germany," said Tennet Managing Director Tim Meyerjürgens.

Later in the afternoon, Habeck planned to attend the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Elbe tunnel in Wewelsfleth (Steinburg district), through which the SeudLink line will be routed to Lower Saxony. According to Tennet, the Elbe crossing is one of the largest special structures of SuedLink. Six 525 kV DC cables are to be pulled in and connected to the SuedLink cables on both sides of the Elbe. The construction time is expected to be four and a half years. The billion-euro SuedLink project is to run for around 700 kilometers to southern Germany. DC lines allow electricity to be transported over long distances with low losses.

Habeck is convinced that SuedLink will enable southern Germany to benefit from the large volumes of wind power from the north in the future. "This will strengthen security of supply in Germany and also in our neighboring countries." With the start of construction on the Elbe crossing, what is probably the most technically challenging line section of the SuedLink is entering the next and final phase as planned. "This is good news for the energy transition and for Germany, and shows that we are making progress with grid expansion." However, Habeck also reminded the audience that Suedlink should already be ready. Now, he said, it will take another five to six years. "So we are quite behind. This should not happen to us again."

The president of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller, stressed that network expansion in Germany is picking up speed. "We are speeding up the approval process wherever possible." By the end of 2024, 2800 kilometers of lines should be approved, and by the end of 2025, already 4400 kilometers, Müller stressed.

With the start of construction on the Elbe crossing, SuedLink will become a reality, Meyerjürgens emphasized. "We can speed up. We must now maintain this pace in the further implementation in order not to lose any time and to be able to go into operation in 2028." He added that this would continue to require the cooperation and support of all stakeholders from politics, business and society.

Lower Saxony's Energy Minister Christian Meyer (Greens) sees a turning point. "With the start of construction of SuedLink here in our north, we are a decisive step closer to the goal of climate neutrality and full supply with renewable energies," he announced./moe/DP/jha