Europe

Berlin energy grid nationalisation fails in referendum

Vattenfall's combined heat and power station Berlin-Wilmersdorf in Berlin October 2, 2013.
Image caption Supporters of the measure argued that the private provider relied too much on coal

A bid to renationalise the electricity grid in the German capital Berlin has narrowly failed in a referendum.

The measure was backed by 24% of those eligible to vote, but a quorum of 25% was needed for it to pass.

It had been supported by green groups, who believe the current provider relies too much on coal. Opponents said it would burden Berlin with debt.

In a referendum last month, Hamburg, Germany's second biggest city, voted to buy back its energy grid.

In Berlin's referendum, 80% of those who voted supported the measure, but a "yes" vote required at least 25% of eligible voters to cast ballots and that figure fell just short.

The wording had called for Berlin to set up a public enterprise to trade in electricity from green sources and sell it to residents.

Voters were also asked to decide whether the city government should open the way for the grid to be taken back into public ownership.

There has been disappointment in Germany that privatisation of the energy grid has not always led to the hoped-for falls in prices and improvements in quality.

The switch from nuclear to solar and wind power has also led to a steep rise in electricity costs.

But the authorities in Berlin - which is already 60bn euros (£50bn; $80bn) in debt - said the city could not afford to renationalise the grid.

It has already bought back its water supply, and officials argued that buying the electricity grid as well would be too expensive.

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