BERLIN, Oct 5 (Reuters) - The German government said on Monday the increased usage of underground cabling to avoid local protests against new power lines would cost up to eight billion euros.
The grid expansion is an important pillar of Chancellor Angela Merkel's "Energiewende" or shift from nuclear power and fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources.
The net operators say more power lines are needed to carry green energy from the breezy north to the country's industrial south where several nuclear power plants will be switched off.
But since the federal network agency presented a master plan to build three high-voltage direct-current transmission lines, protest groups have formed across the country.
The conflict escalated when Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, head of Merkel's sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), bowed to public concern and publicly revoked his support for the grid expansion.
In July, Merkel's coalition settled the dispute by agreeing that net operators should modernise existing pylons and use underground cabling in as many areas as possible.
This approach would lead to additional costs of three to eight billions euros, the economy ministry has now said, giving figures for the project for the first time.
The costs for building and operating the electricity grid are normally passed on to consumers in Germany.
At the same time, the agreed underground cabling could lower overall costs in the medium-term by reducing local protests and speeding up construction of the power lines, the ministry added.
(Reporting by Markus Wacket and Michael Nienaber, editing by David Evans)
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