The city of Oranienburg in Brandenburg is facing a serious problem: a bottleneck in the electricity supply. New residents who want to install a heat pump face a big obstacle, as municipal services currently have to tell them that this is impossible. This raises important questions that could also be important for other regions in Germany.

“Oranienburg is just the beginning,” FDP politician Michael Kruse told ZDF. “We discuss in the abstract how much additional renewable energy we need and we don't discuss how much grid expansion we need and these two components don't come together,” Kruse says. The Federal Ministry of Economy sees it differently.

The city of Brandenburg, with its almost 48,000 inhabitants, is clearly an isolated case. Local politicians and municipal utility companies simply approached the important network expansion too late. The situation worsened after more and more people installed heat pumps, thus increasing electricity consumption. At the same time, many companies moved to the city, increasing demand for energy.

The Federal Network Agency spoke of an “unacceptable” situation and at the same time gave the go-ahead. From his point of view, there are no comparable cases in Germany: “According to the preliminary assessment of the Federal Network Agency, these are planning errors to resolve the situation as soon as possible, more information was requested from the municipal companies.”

Could a power outage also occur in other cities?

Unlikely, but possible. “Uncertainties can never be completely ruled out,” a spokesman for the association of municipal companies (VkU) tells the newspaper “Bild”. If electricity consumption in a city suddenly increases massively and municipal utilities are not prepared for it, bottlenecks could occur. In addition, the construction of new commercial and industrial zones could encourage many companies to establish themselves there. Networks should be prepared for this.

Politicians must now act “quickly, boldly and without bureaucracy,” says André Berghegger, managing director of the German Association of Cities and Municipalities. “It has long been known that there is a strong need for adjustments to the grid so that the energy transition can be successful.”

This is how Oranienburg wants to solve the problem

The city has now announced that it has created a working group and is examining workarounds. A new substation is being planned and will come into operation in 2026, according to the press office. To bridge the bottleneck until a new substation is completed, it is possible to use a temporary replacement substation or use gas turbines to supply electricity into the utility grid.

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