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29th Jan 2023

EU aims to speed up renewables permits, removing safeguards

  • Rooftop panels for households will no longer need an official environmental impact assessment (Photo: Panos Mitsios/Greenpeace)
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The European Parliament's industry committee on Monday (14 November) approved legislation that will help speed up the deployment of solar, wind and hydro projects.

By determining all renewable energy projects to be of "overriding public interest" certain environmental assessments will no longer be necessary.

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"Today, we have laid the foundation for permanently faster processes to issue permits, thereby accelerating the deployment of renewable energies, thus boosting the energy transition," lead MEP Markus Pieper, of the centre-right European People's Party, said.

However, these new relaxed rules are temporary and will initially only apply until "next winter," Mechthild Wörsdörfer, senior energy official at the EU Commission which tabled the proposal, said.

It is part of the wider EU effort to phase out the bloc's dependency on Russian fossil-fuels by speeding up the diversification of energy supplies, accelerating the rollout of renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency. This will also bring down the price. "The more renewable energy, the better it is for consumers," Wörsdörfer said.

The proposal shortens the approval period for new renewable energy installations from twelve to nine months, and requires member states to determine so-called "renewables acceleration areas" where rapid deployment of renewables are allowed.

The permit is approved automatically if the responsible authority does not respond in time. Outside of these areas, permit-granting should not exceed 18 months, MEPs say.

Smaller-scale projects will also become easier. Solar equipment for buildings should be delivered within three months at the maximum. Rooftop panels for households will no longer need an official environmental impact assessment.

The report was adopted by the industry committee. It will now be put up for a general parliamentary vote in December.

Environmental protection

Although supporting the faster uptake of renewables, CEE Bankwatch Network, a Prague-based environmental NGO, warned the legislation undermines environmental rules and calls on lawmakers to maintain existing environmental safeguards and focus instead on using all available rooftop space first.

"Building damaging projects in Natura 2000 sites, areas crucial for birds and on pristine rivers, will not massively increase the EU's overall renewables output," Pippa Gallop, energy advisor at Bankwatch Network, said. "It will just cause additional destruction of nature for very little gain."

The faster permitting process in 'go to' area also gives local communities less time to have their say on the plans, potentially undermining public support.

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