Dutch-owned grid operator mulls sale to German government

BERLIN (AP) — A state-owned Dutch company that is Germany’s biggest electricity grid operator said Friday that it plans to hold talks on selling its entire German business to the government in Berlin, which welcomed the announcement.

TenneT, which is one of four transmission network operators in Germany, pointed to the need to find a “structural solution” to funding needs for its German business as the grid is bolstered to handle the transition to renewable energy, which it put at about 15 billion euros ($16.1 billion).

TenneT operates electricity grids across a large swath of Germany, from the North Sea coast to Bavaria in the south. Those transmission lines are crucial for Germany’s plans to completely shift its power production from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2045 at the latest.

At present, some of the electricity generated by wind farms in the north of the country can’t be dispatched to consumers in the south due to lack of transmission capacity.

The German government said at the end of November that it was considering taking a stake in TenneT. It already has a minority stake in rival grid operator 50 Hertz, via the state-owned KfW investment bank.

In a statement Friday, TenneT said it “intends to engage in discussions with the German government, to explore the possibility of a full sale of TenneT’s German activities on acceptable terms.”

The company, which also operates the Netherlands’ grid, said it “acknowledges that both the Dutch and German government prefer to fund, control and own their national electricity grid.”

In Berlin, Economy Ministry spokeswoman Beate Baron welcomed the move but wouldn’t give details of a possible deal, citing ongoing talks with the Dutch government.

“We need investment in network expansion, and we need to look on a case-by-case basis at what the right instrument is,” she said.