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May 14, 2024

European Commission announces guidance to speed up renewables permitting

The EU has recently launched investigations into Chinese involvement in renewable technologies in Spain, Greece, France, Romania and Bulgaria © Angel Garcia/Bloomberg
The EU has recently launched investigations into Chinese involvement in renewable technologies in Spain, Greece, France, Romania and Bulgaria © Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

EU member states urged to prioritise Europe-manufactured technologies and measure biodiversity impacts

The European Commission has announced new guidance to speed up the permitting process for renewable energy projects.

The recommendations focus on simplifying and speeding up the permitting process and standardising renewable energy auctions across the EU.

Walburga Hemetsberger, chief executive of industry group SolarPower Europe, said the updates would “facilitate further growth” of the EU’s solar industry and provide “guidance on mapping and acceleration areas”.

The commission’s guidance is aimed at helping member states to identify renewable acceleration areas, regions where the deployment of renewables is not expected to have significant negative impacts on the surrounding environment. Member states should focus on “fast-tracking” deployment in these areas, it says.

“Digital tools for planning and mapping, and data on the renewable energy capacity and on the potential environmental impact [of installations],” should be used to identify such areas, the commission adds.

The guidance also highlights the importance of local stakeholder engagement. Involving local communities in decision-making should be a “prerequisite” to meeting the REPowerEU targets, which seek to phase out Russian oil and gas imports following the war in Ukraine, said Hemetsberger.

Rebecca Humphries, head of climate policy for Europe at non-profit The Nature Conservancy, also welcomed the introduction of acceleration areas. The prioritisation of environmental risk will “ensure both the EU’s climate and biodiversity goals are met”, she said in a statement.

“The recommendation for member states to pursue environmental protection and the restoration of ecosystems and other non-price criteria in renewable energy auctions is also a very positive step to accelerate investment in the expansion of nature-positive renewable energy,” she added.

Non-price criteria in renewables auctions

The guidance around renewable energy auctions requires member states to consider “non-price criteria”, including “quality, contribution to resilience and environmental sustainability”. As well as protecting local biodiversity, the commission said the criteria will help prioritise the rollout of net zero technologies that are manufactured in Europe.

Maroš Šefčovič, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, said in a statement that the incorporation of the non-price criteria presents an “economic opportunity for Europe” and gives European manufacturers the chance to “compete on a level playing field”.

The commission is concerned about its markets being flooded with cheap Chinese clean technologies. In April, EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager announced that the union had launched investigations into Chinese involvement in renewable technologies in Spain, Greece, France, Romania and Bulgaria.

Speaking at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, US, Vestager said China had come to dominate the solar industry by “not always playing fair” — “less than 3 per cent of the solar panels installed in the EU are produced in Europe”, she added.

Such dependencies have impacts on Europe’s “competitiveness” and “economic security”, she said.

A service from the Financial Times