4 Nov 2013

Referendum to renationalise electricity supply in Berlin narrowly fails

4:33 pm on 4 November 2013

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

In a referendum, 24% of those eligible to vote cast their ballots in favour of returning control of the power supply to public hands.

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, the BBC reports.

Opponents of the buy-back feared a return to public ownership would burden Berlin with additional debt and diversifying energy sources would increase costs.

Supporters said current electricity prices were too high.

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.

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 - a city with a large debt burden - said it 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.