New EU Rules Propel Wind Energy Permits to Record Highs in 2023
In a significant leap forward for Europe’s renewable energy ambitions, the continent witnessed a surge in approvals for onshore wind farms in 2023. The wind of change is blowing strong, with Germany leading the charge by granting 7.5 GW permits, marking a remarkable 70% increase from the previous year. The winds of transformation are also sweeping through Spain, France, and the United Kingdom, as they break records and set ambitious trajectories for the future.
This groundbreaking shift is largely attributed to the implementation of new EU rules governing renewable energy permitting. The Emergency Regulation on Permitting and the Revised Renewable Energy (RED III) have set the stage for a permitting renaissance. The Overriding Public Interest (OPI) clause has proven to be a game-changer, ensuring projects navigate legal hurdles with newfound ease. With the 2030 goals looming, these rules demand a digital revolution in permitting procedures, urging governments to streamline processes for a cleaner, sustainable future.
Among the frontrunners in embracing change, Germany stands out for its meticulous implementation of the new rules. The OPI concept has already fast-tracked projects entangled in legal disputes, allowing for successful court outcomes. France, Portugal, and Austria have followed suit, incorporating OPI into their legal frameworks. As WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson emphasizes, “Permitting improved last year, especially in Germany, but there’s still a way to go.” The urgency to meet the 2030 targets requires a collective effort to implement and enhance these rules across all nations.
Spain’s substantial increase in permits in 2023 can be attributed to a simple yet effective strategy—more permitting staff. Meanwhile, Poland has dismantled its controversial 10H distance rule, opting for a more pragmatic approach with a 700-meter minimum distance requirement from settlements. This move has expanded the area available for onshore wind farms by 100%, a promising shift in a country that was once bogged down by restrictive regulations. Other nations are following suit, identifying Renewable Acceleration Areas and setting stricter deadlines to propel their wind energy ambitions forward.
Recognizing the need for a digital revolution, the European Commission proposed a digital permitting platform as part of the Wind Power Package. The current practice of physically printing and distributing permit applications is not only archaic but also contributes to substantial costs and inefficiencies. Enter EasyPermits, a groundbreaking software developed by WindEurope in collaboration with AWS and Accenture. Successfully tested in Denmark and Poland, EasyPermits has the potential to revolutionize permitting procedures by allowing public administrations and local communities to accelerate the entire process. Preliminary results show a threefold increase in the efficiency of permitting agents, heralding a new era for digital solutions in streamlining Europe’s wind energy ambitions.
As Europe navigates the gusts of change in its wind energy landscape, the newfound momentum is undeniable. However, the path to meeting the ambitious 2030 targets is paved with challenges that demand urgent attention. Governments must not rest on their laurels; instead, they should seize this opportunity to implement and enhance the new EU rules, streamline permitting processes, and embrace digital solutions. Only through collective efforts can Europe harness the full potential of its wind revolution, securing a cleaner, sustainable future for generations to come.
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