European power transmission system operator (TSO) TenneT might bring in private co-owners at some point to support huge investments needed to build up power links fit for the continent's renewable energy expansion, its CEO said.
"We all agree that the energy transition in general, not only TSOs, needs huge amounts of money and needs to be opened up for the capital markets," Manon van Beek said in an interview during the annual Handelsblatt Energy Summit in Berlin.
Asked whether opening up TenneT, which is 100% state-owned by the Netherlands, to outside investors at some point was a taboo, she said: "No, it's not."
TenneT operates 24,000 kilometers of high-voltage electricity grids in the Netherlands and large parts of Germany, with a turnover of 4.5 billion euros ($5.1 billion).
Its investments will increase towards 6 billion euros a year over the coming 10 years as both countries expand wind and solar power, with the push for offshore wind in particular involving huge connection costs to bring it onshore.
TenneT operates in a regulated sector where spending is only recovered long-term via grid usage fees, which form part of electricity bills.
The ownership question, raised among other reasons because higher debt levels could affect TenneT's credit ratings, has returned to the fore after a new Dutch government was finally installed last week.
Van Beek said discussions had begun to find good solutions for the company's equity needs.
"We want to maintain the credit rating at the level it is today," van Beek added.
Standard & Poor's and Moody's both have stable outlooks on A- and A3 ratings, respectively.
TenneT Chief Operating Officer Tim Meyerjuergens said Germany needed reforms to renewable, planning, and permissioning laws and incentives for innovation if it wanted to meet its target of obtaining 80% of power from renewables by 2030.
"Current regulatory frameworks reflect little of these necessities," he said.
($1 = 0.8814 euros)
(Reporting by Vera Eckert, Christoph Steitz, Tom Kaeckenhoff Editing by Mark Potter)