EU energy ministers have approved the shortening of permitting procedures for wind and solar plants
On December 19th 2022 the EU Council reached an agreement on targeted amendments to the renewable energy directive, proposed under the REPowerEU plan. Member states will design dedicated ‘go-to areas’ for renewables with shortened and simplified permitting processes in areas with lower environmental risks.
The Council confirmed the target of at least 40% of the share of energy from renewable sources in 2030 in the Union’s gross final consumption, as set in its general approach on the revisions of renewable energy directive, adopted in June 2022.
The Council agreed that member states will map the areas necessary for national contributions towards the 2030 renewable energy target within 18 months after the entry into force of this directive. Member states will adopt a plan or plans designating ‘renewables go-to areas’ within 30 months after the entry into force of this directive. The renewables go-to areas would concern land, sea or inland waters and would be chosen because they are particularly suitable areas for specific renewable energy technologies and present lower risks for the environment.
In their plans designating renewables go-to areas, member states would also adopt mitigation measures that counter the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities of the projects located in each go-to area. The whole plans would then be subject to a simplified environmental impacts assessment, instead of an assessment being carried out for each project, as is usually the case.
The renewables go-to areas would also limit the grounds of legal objection to new installations by presuming they are of overriding public interest.
The Council agreed on a shorter deadline of six months for areas already designated as suitable for an accelerated renewables deployment, if among other things they are not in Natura 2000 areas and have undergone an environmental assessment.
Member states agreed that they would be allowed to exclude biomass combustion plants and hydropower plants from the designation of renewables go-to areas, because of their particularities.
Faster permit-granting processes
For renewable go-to areas, the Council agreed that permit-granting processes should not take longer than one year for renewables projects, and two years for offshore renewables projects. In duly justified extraordinary circumstances the period may be extended by up to six months.
For the repowering of plants and for new installations with an electrical capacity of less than 150 kW, co-located energy storage facilities as well as their grid connection, the processes should be limited to six months, and one year if they concern offshore wind energy projects. In duly justified extraordinary circumstances, for example overriding safety reasons, the period may be extended by up to three months.
For areas outside go-to areas the permit-granting processes should not exceed two years, and three years for offshore renewables projects. In duly justified extraordinary circumstances the period may be extended by up to six months.
For the repowering of plants and for new installations with an electrical capacity of less than 150 kW, co-located energy storage facilities as well as their grid connection, the processes should not take longer than one year, and two years if they concern offshore wind energy projects. In duly justified extraordinary circumstances the period may be extended by up to three months.
The Council agreed that the time during which the plants, their grid connections and the related necessary grid infrastructure are being built or repowered should not be counted within these deadlines.
For solar installations on ‘artificial surfaces’ three months is the new deadline for permitting procedures. Projects under 50 kW can even benefit from an administrative cap of 1 month – though the size could be reduced to 10.8 kW in case of grid restraints.
The new regulation is set to come into force in January 2023 and run for 18 months. It is intended to ‘bridge the gap’ until the related EU Renewable Energy Directive is updated and adopted next year. The news rules can be applied to existing projects in the pipeline, as well as any further projects proposed before June 2024.
In applying the regulation EU countries will each offer their own definition of what an ‘artificial structure’ is, which could include buildings, industrial and brownfield sites, and transport infrastructure such as carports or carparks, or along motorways and railways.
The press release about the Council can be found at www.consilium.europa.eu
More information about wind installations can be found at windeurope.org
More information about solar installations can be found at solarpowereurope.org