REPowerEU: Council agrees on accelerated permitting rules for renewables
The Council reached an agreement (general approach) on targeted amendments to the renewable energy directive, proposed under the REPowerEU plan. Member states will design dedicated ‘go-to areas’ for renewables with shortened and simplified permitting processes in areas with lower environmental risks.
‘This agreement is an important addition to the ongoing work on the renewable energy directive. Faster permitting in areas that can yield the best results without harming the environment will allow us to deploy renewable energy in our grids faster. This is the best way of becoming independent of Russian energy and it will also contribute considerably to our climate goals.
Jozef SÍKELA, Czech minister of industry and trade
The Council confirmed the target of at least 40% of the share of energy from renewable sources in 2030 in the Union’s gross final consumption, as set in its general approach on the revisions of renewable energy directive, adopted in June 2022. The Commission’s proposal in REPowerEU was to increases the target to at least 45% in 2030. The current target in the 2018 renewable energy directive, is 32.5 % in 2030.
The Council agreed that member states will map the areas necessary for national contributions towards the 2030 renewable energy target within 18 months after the entry into force of this directive.
Member States will adopt a plan or plans designating ‘renewables go-to areas’ within 30 months after the entry into force of this directive.
The renewables go-to areas would concern land, sea or inland waters and would be chosen because they are particularly suitable areas for specific renewable energy technologies and present lower risks for the environment. Protected areas should be avoided for example.
In their plans designating renewables go-to areas, member states would also adopt mitigation measures that counter the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities of the projects located in each go-to area. The whole plans would then be subject to a simplified environmental impacts assessment, instead of an assessment being carried out for each project, as is usually the case.
The renewables go-to areas would also limit the grounds of legal objection to new installations by presuming they are of overriding public interest.
The Council agreed on a shorter deadline of 6 months for areas already designated as suitable for an accelerated renewables deployment, if among other things they are not in Natura 2000 areas and have undergone an environmental assessment.
Member states agreed that they would be allowed to exclude biomass combustion plants and hydropower plants from the designation of renewables go-to areas, because of their particularities.
Faster permit-granting processes
For renewable go-to areas, the Council agreed that permit-granting processes should not take longer than one year for renewables projects, and two years for offshore renewables projects. In duly justified extraordinary circumstances the period may be extended by up to six months.
For the repowering of plants and for new installations with an electrical capacity of less than 150 kW, co-located energy storage facilities as well as their grid connection, the processes should be limited to six months, and one year if they concern offshore wind energy projects. In duly justified extraordinary circumstances, for example overriding safety reasons, the period may be extended by up to three months.
For areas outside go-to areas the permit-granting processes should not exceed two years, and three years for offshore renewables projects. In duly justified extraordinary circumstances the period may be extended by up to six months.
For the repowering of plants and for new installations with an electrical capacity of less than 150 kW, co-located energy storage facilities as well as their grid connection, the processes should not take longer than one year, and two years if they concern offshore wind energy projects. In duly justified extraordinary circumstances the period may be extended by up to three months.
The Council agreed that the time during which the plants, their grid connections and the related necessary grid infrastructure are being built or repowered should not be counted within these deadlines.
For solar equipment, member states agreed that the permit-granting process would not exceed three months.
Member States may provide that the lack of reply within the set deadlines could be considered as a tacit agreement to intermediary steps but permits would need an explicit final decision on the outcome of the process.
Member states also agreed that in order to facilitate the integration of renewable energy into the distribution and transmission grids, the screening or environmental impact assessment for grid reinforcements should be limited to the potential impacts stemming from the change to the grid infrastructure.
On 18 May 2022, the European Commission presented its REPowerEU plan as a response to the hardships and global energy market disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The REPower EU plan seeks to both end the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and make further advances in reaching the EU’s climate objectives.
As part of the REPowerEU plan, the Commission proposed a series of targeted amendments of existing legislation in the energy field, namely the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED). All three directives are in the process of being revised as part of the ‘Fit for 55’ package, which was adopted by the Commission in 2021. The elements regarding the EED and EPBD have been already integrated into this process and the current proposal now only concerns renewable energy.
The general approach sets the Council’s position in view of negotiations with the European Parliament. The two institutions will now be able to factor their positions on the REPowerEU proposal into the ongoing negotiations on the renewable energy directive.