Out-Law News Lesedauer: 1 Min.

EU adopts regulation to fast track permits for renewable energy projects

The European Union has adopted a Council regulation to speed up the permit-granting process for renewable energy projects throughout the EU, in response to the energy crisis caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The new regulation (28-page / 367KB PDF) lays down a temporary framework to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy projects and introduces faster permitting processes for suitable projects that can be rolled out quickly and have the least impact on the environment.

The rules set maximum deadlines for granting permits for solar energy equipment, upgrading renewable power plants and the deployment of heat pumps. For example, the permit-granting process should not exceed three months for solar energy projects, or six months for repowering projects. The deadline for the installation of heat pumps can be as short as one month. In certain cases, qualifying projects may be exempted from environmental impact assessment.

Member states are given the power to further shorten permit-granting deadlines. They may also exclude certain areas or structures from the fast-track process on certain grounds, such as cultural and historical heritage protection or national safety.

The regulation also introduces a presumption of “overriding public interest” for renewable energy projects. This will allow renewable energy projects to benefit from a simplified assessment for some environmental obligations included in specific EU directives. It is possible for member states to restrict the application of these provisions to certain parts of their territory, types of technologies or projects.

As stated in the regulation, “a fast deployment of renewable energy sources can help to mitigate the effects of the current energy crisis, by forming a defence against Russia’s actions”. The introduction of the regulation is will enable the EU to “tackle the exposure of European consumers and businesses to high and volatile prices which are causing economic and social hardship” and “ease the required reduction in energy demand by replacing natural gas supplies with energy from renewable sources and to increase security of supply”.

Energy expert Dr Valerian von Richthofen of Pinsent Masons welcomed the new framework, but raised some practical questions.

“As a regulation, the new rules apply directly in the member states and do not require any further legal implementation. However, the practical implementation across and within each member state is going to be interesting, especially whether the ambitious approval deadlines can actually be met. If this is not the case, the question will arise as to what extend legal procedures exist to enforce a speedy approval,” he said.

The regulation was adopted on 22 December 2022 and will be valid for 18 months. The Commission will review the option to extend it. It is part of the REPowerEU package, which consists of significant far-reaching measures aimed at reducing EU dependency on Russian fossil fuels and tackling the climate crisis. The package has been provisionally agreed by EU law makers.

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