Solar panels with wind turbines in background

EU plans one-year renewable energy permits for faster green shift

Image credit: Dreamstime

Representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the European Union meet on Sunday for crucial gas talks at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels.

The European Union executive wants to speed up the bloc's green transition and cut its reliance on Russian fuels by allowing some renewable energy projects to receive permits within a year, according to a draft document.

Brussels is expected to shortly unveil a package of measures to end the European Union's reliance on Russia, by boosting renewable energy, saving energy and increasing gas imports from elsewhere.

As part of this strategy, the European Commission will propose rules requiring countries to designate "go-to areas" of land or sea suitable for renewable energy, where such projects would have a low environmental impact, the draft legislative proposal indicates.

"The permit-granting process for new projects located in renewables go-to areas shall not exceed one year," the document said, adding that this could be extended by three months in "extraordinary circumstances".

This new timeframe slashes the permission timeline, compared to the EU's current two-year deadline for permitting such schemes, which can be further prolonged by an additional year. Projects outside of the designated go-to areas would still stick to this existing timeline, the draft said.

Renewable projects often face long delays, owing to red tape, local opposition or concerns about protecting endangered species, raising concerns that the bloc will struggle to expand wind and solar energy fast enough to meet climate change goals.

In Greece, for example, eight years is a typical timeline for approving wind energy projects, the Hellenic Wind Energy Association said.

"Renewable energy sources are crucial to fight climate change, reduce energy prices, decrease the Union's dependence on fossil fuels and ensure the Union's security of supply," the document said.

Permitting and building renewable energy projects would be labelled as being in the "overriding public interest", enabling a simplified assessment. EU citizens would still have the right to participate in decisions on the projects, the draft said.

Go-to areas would avoid protected sites or bird migration routes and would instead prioritise built areas like rooftops, roads and railways, industrial sites and any public land around them.

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

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

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

Meanwhile, over the weekend, the rapidly shifting world energy market saw G7 nations commit to banning or phasing-out imports of Russian oil. The US also unveiled sanctions against Gazprombank executives and other businesses to punish Moscow for its unprovoked war against Ukraine.

"We commit to phase out our dependency on Russian energy, including by phasing out or banning the import of Russian oil. We will ensure that we do so in a timely and orderly fashion," G7 leaders said in a joint statement.

"We will work together and with our partners to ensure stable and sustainable global energy supplies and affordable prices for consumers."

The move represents the latest attempt by the West to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country's invasion of Ukraine and the deadly aftermath that has ensued and continues daily.

The US additionally unveiled sanctions against three Russian television stations, banned North American citizens from providing accounting and consulting services to Russians, and imposed around 2,600 visa restrictions on Russian and Belarusian officials.

The measures leveled against Gazprombank executives were the first involving the giant Russian gas exporter, as the US and its allies have previously avoided taking such steps that could lead to disruptions of natural gas to Europe, Russia's main customer.

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