Sun, 10 Dec 2023

BRUSSELS, Belgium: Last month, European Union (EU) energy ministers agreed in principle to emergency regulations that aim to speed up the issuance of wind and solar permits while EU officials negotiate wider measures stipulated in the REPowerEU plan.

REPowerEU, which will be incorporated into the Renewable Energy Directive pending agreement by EU officials, is a package of measures aimed at addressing the energy crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The growth of the wind and solar sector has been delayed by the slow pace of issuing environmental permits and grid connection issues.

As a result of complex administrative processes and approval authorities having limited resources, permits can take several years to be issued.

The new regulations could be formally approved on 13th December, when energy ministers will meet to agree on an overall package of emergency measures, including a controversial limit on gas prices.

Meanwhile, wind industry officials stressed that as an earlier proposal omitting them would slow Europe's dash towards energy independence, the new measures must cover projects already awaiting approvals.

Industry group WindEurope said that some 80 gigawatts of wind capacity, five times the total wind capacity installed in 2021, is currently in limbo due to waits to receive permits.

In an interview with Reuters, Susannah Wood, Vice President Europe Public Affairs at Norwegian developer Statkraft, said, "The emergency regulation is an important [step] to accelerate renewable energy deployment, including in onshore wind."

"The regulation provides important legislative clarity on permitting deadlines, on repowering and on the presumption of renewable energy projects being of 'overriding public interest' when balanced with other legal interests," Wood added.

Repowering projects involve replacing existing turbines with newer higher capacity models. The regulation accelerates the permitting deadline from one year to three months for repowering projects that increase capacity by up to 15 percent and do not need grid reinforcements.

Meanwhile, the timelines for larger repowering projects have been shortened from one year to six months.

"Improving resource assessments and spatial planning procedures is key to accelerate project development processes to enable faster wind power capacity growth in Europe," Wood noted.

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