EU to Speed Up Process for Renewable Energy Permits

The European Commission aims to speed up permits for renewable energy projects to cut the EU’s reliance on Russian energy and accelerate energy transition. The commission proposes to give permits to some renewable energy projects within a year.

Brussels is expected to unveil a new package of measures next week to end the EU’s reliance on Russian energy by boosting renewables projects, saving energy and increasing gas imports from alternative suppliers.

As part of its effort, the European Commission is set to propose rules that require member states to designate “go to areas” of land or sea that are suitable for renewable projects. The draft law requires those designated areas to have a low environmental impact.

The draft document says the permit-granting process for new projects located in renewables go-to areas shall not exceed one year. It could be extended by three months in extraordinary circumstances, the document adds.

The EU’s current permission process has a two-year deadline for such schemes, which can also be extended by an extra year. Projects outside of the designated go-to areas would stick to this timeline.

However, renewable projects usually face longer delays because of red tape, local opposition or concerns about environmental protection. Those factors raise concerns that the bloc will struggle to reach climate targets.

As an example, in Greece, it typically takes eight years to approve wind energy projects.

The Commission draft says renewable energy is crucial to fight climate change, reduce energy prices, maintain energy security and decrease the bloc’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The EU’s executive body aims to label permitting and building renewable energy projects as in the “overriding public interest”, but it says the citizens would still have the right to participate in decisions.

With designated go-to areas, the proposal will try to avoid protected sites or bird migration routes, and prioritize built areas like rooftops, roads and railways, industrial sites and public land around them.

The areas will be subject to an environmental assessment, but individual projects will no longer need one unless they would significantly affect the environment in another EU country.

Smaller projects with less than 150kW capacity in go-to areas would face a faster six-month permitting process, or nine if there are issues around safety or the impact on the power grid.

The speedier permit rules would not apply to plants that burn biomass for energy.

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