The EU regulation to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy projects (EU Acceleration Regulation) is intended both to compensate permanently for the loss of energy supplies from the Russian Federation, and also to give an urgently-needed boost to the expansion of renewable energy plants necessary for green energy transition, so that these can be used more quickly throughout the EU.
This ambitious goal is to be achieved mainly through the following measures:
simplification and acceleration of the permit-granting process for certain renewable energy installations;
simplification and acceleration of the permit-granting process for the repowering of plants for the generation of energy from renewable sources as well as the
ex lege assumption that certain renewable energy installations are in the overriding public interest.
WHICH INVESTMENTS ARE FAVOURED?
The focus is on renewable energy technologies or on specific types of renewable energy projects that have the highest potential for quick deployment (Art.1).
Restriction to the technologies and project types mentioned is justified by the fact that these can be implemented quickly without the need for costly changes to national procedures and legal systems. The EU Acceleration Regulation thus (unfortunately) does not cover the expansion of hydrogen technology.
WHAT INSTRUMENTS ARE ENVISAGED TO SPEED UP PROCEDURES?
Short decision-making deadlines:
The EU Acceleration Regulation stipulates that the permit-granting process for eligible installations must be completed within a certain period of time:
Approval procedures for solar installations must take no longer than three months (Art 4 para 1).
Solar energy systems with a capacity of 50 kW or less are granted tacit authorisation, in which authorisation is deemed to have been granted if the competent authorities do not make a (negative) decision within one month of the application. A prerequisite of the tacit approval for small installations is that the solar energy installation’s capacity must not exceed the capacity of the existing distribution grid connection.
The procedure for granting permits for repowering projects – including any environmental impact assessments – must take no longer than six months. This also applies to the expansion of installations required for grid connection if repowering leads to an increase in capacity (Art 5). Where repowering leads to an increase in capacity of less than 15%, connection to the transmission or distribution grid must be approved within three months (after the application is submitted).
The permit-granting procedure for the installation of heat pumps with an electrical capacity of less than 50 MW should take no longer than one month. The procedure for granting permits for ground source heat pumps should not exceed three months
Exemptions to environmental impact assessments:
Solar energy installations are exempt from the requirement to determine whether a general or specialist environmental impact assessment is required for the project.
Environmental impact assessments for repowering must not take longer than six months. Furthermore, only potentially significant impacts of the modification or extension compared to the original project are to be assessed.
Member States may, under certain conditions, provide for further exemptions from the environmental impact assessment for renewable energy projects and energy storage and electricity grid projects necessary for the integration of renewable energy into the electricity system.
Assumption of overriding public interest
In cases where the licensing provisions (in particular exemption provisions) provide for a balancing of interests, it is assumed that when balancing legal interests in individual cases that the planning, construction and operation of plants and facilities for the generation of energy from renewable sources as well as their connection to the grid, the grid in question itself and the storage facilities are in the overriding public interest and serve public health and safety. This is particularly relevant for exemptions under the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive. Member States may limit the application of these provisions to certain parts of their territories and to certain types of technologies or projects with particular technical characteristics.
PERIOD OF VALIDITY
The EU Acceleration Regulation entered into force immediately upon its publication on 29 December 2022 and is valid for a period of 18 months, i.e. until the end of June 2024. For companies planning such projects, the next 18 months are therefore the optimal time to submit them for approval. The legal fiction of overriding public interest is a particularly unique opportunity. It remains to be seen whether the Austrian EIA Act, which was announced by the government at the beginning of January 2023, will be simplified.
The LGP team is always available to assist you with the implementation of your energy transition project.