Mr. Homann, the expansion of the power grid will cost more than 100 billion euros over the next few years. Is there a new avalanche of costs rolling towards consumers?
The new lines have to be paid for, and that will be reflected in network charges and electricity prices. But the construction will take a very long time, and I don’t see any cost avalanche for electricity customers. This year the network charges have actually remained practically constant on average. In addition, without new lines, interventions in the power plant fleet would have to be made more often, and these costs also end up with the electricity customers. That already amounts to more than 1 billion euros a year. Doing nothing would be the more expensive alternative in the long run.
The green electricity subsidy is partly paid out of tax money in order to relieve electricity customers. Would that be a way to cap the charges for the grid, at least a quarter of the electricity price, and to make electricity cheaper?
No, these are two different construction sites. The promotion of green electricity is a task for society as a whole, so that such a system change is justified. When it comes to network costs, we have to follow the polluter pays principle in order to make the expansion as efficient as possible.
According to a report by the Federal Court of Auditors, the analyzes of security of supply underestimate the actual risk of failure. Is the network agency too reckless?
All of our studies show that in total we have enough electricity for Germany – despite the coal and nuclear phase-out. The real issue is network security. And we see this as guaranteed in all constellations derived from extreme experiences in the past. We adhere to probability considerations and not to hypothetical worst-case scenarios. Orienting oneself to a theoretical extreme case that has never been observed in the past would not be economically justifiable.
To protect the climate, cars and heating systems are to be electrified and huge amounts of green hydrogen are to be produced. Shouldn’t the forecasts for energy consumption be set much higher?
In planning scenarios for 2030 and 2035, we are already going up significantly in the consumption assumptions. In the framework planning, we adhere to the reports with which the energy policy works. Of course, one can ask oneself whether the consumption curve shouldn’t have to rise steeper earlier. But that’s exactly why we keep a close eye on developments and adjust the network planning every two years. And if necessary, new lines are also decided upon. Like recently with the new federal requirement plan law and the additional direct current line from the North Sea coast to the Ruhr area.
The operators of electricity and gas networks can calculate with lush returns on equity of 6.91 percent for their investments. Is that still appropriate in times of negative interest rates?
The return on equity will have to decrease in the new regulatory period for gas from 2023 and for electricity from 2024. That is clear to everyone involved. Financing bottlenecks are still not to be feared. There is great interest from investors. Networks remain a very attractive and secure investment – even if the interested party naturally builds up pressure to get even better conditions.
What is the magnitude of the lowering?
An expert opinion will be available in June. A decision is not expected until October, so I cannot anticipate. One thing is clear: the calculation model results in an average current yield of just 0.75 percent for the risk-free basic interest rate in the relevant ten-year period. Currently it is 2.49 percent. Then there is always a risk surcharge.
Will that go down too?
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