Renewables

EU to accelerate renewables permitting, cut environmental requirements

EU accelerate renewables permitting cut environmental requirements

Photo: Christophe Licoppe / EC - Audiovisual Service

Published

November 10, 2022

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Published:

November 10, 2022

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The European Commission tabled a temporary emergency regulation with the aim to double the size of new renewable energy installations to 100 GW next year by cutting red tape. The measures would include lowering environmental requirements.

The European Commission proposed a temporary emergency regulation to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy within the plan to end the European Union’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

Measures to loosen the administrative procedures were already addressed in the REPowerEU plan, but the situation in the energy markets has worsened since then, prompting the need for urgent action, according to the EU’s executive body. It said the new rules would be introduced for one year by the European Council, to bridge the gap until the new Renewable Energy Directive comes into force.

The International Energy Agency has highlighted a risk of a shortage of 30 billion cubic meters of gas ahead of the start of the heating season next year

“By doing so, we can unblock a myriad of renewable projects already in the next 12 months. According to calculations by the IEA, we could replace 14 billion cubic meters of gas already next year,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, pointing out that the International Energy Agency has highlighted a risk of a shortage of 30 billion cubic meters of gas ahead of the start of the heating season next year.

Too many projects are stuck in permitting process

The EU is set to add 50 GW this year from renewables, two times more than in 2021, she stressed and expressed the ambition to boost the additions to 100 GW next year.

“There are countless renewable projects that are just waiting to be approved. Some could deliver cheap energy immediately, in a matter of weeks or months. I am thinking, for instance, about solar panels on existing buildings, or the repowering of wind parks. But too many of these projects are stuck because of long permitting procedures,” Von der Leyen stated.

EU is jeopardizing environmental safeguards, EEB warns

Rooftop photovoltaic installations and solar power facilities up to 50 kW would be exempted from environmental impact assessments. The European Environmental Bureau claims it would be done at the expense of environmental safeguards and democratic checks and create legal uncertainty.

“Today’s proposal curtails environmental assessments that provide fundamental nature and social safeguards and proposes measures that de facto amend cornerstone EU environmental regulation… Renewables roll-out can be accelerated by ensuring better implementation of environmental assessments and tackling administrative bottlenecks – i.e. by fostering digitalization of procedures and establishing one-stop-shops for project applicants – and improving resources in all levels of competent authorities for both permitting and environmental assessments,” according to the network of environmentalist organizations.

Timmermans: Environmental requirements will be scaled back only where there would be no concerns

Conversely, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, in charge of the European Green Deal, said the focus is “on areas where there is strong evidence that there would be no concerns, such as solar panels on existing or already planned structures, or the renewal and upgrading of current plants that are near the end of their economic life.”

In essence, the proposal calls for declaring that photovoltaics, heat pumps and other clean energy facilities are of “overriding public interest” and imposing shorter deadlines for permitting.

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