(Bloomberg) -- It took the worst energy crisis in generations, but Europe has finally managed to begin easing the gridlock of paperwork that has long stalled the development of onshore wind farms.
Measures such as declaring renewable energy projects in the national interest have helped to cut the time it takes developers to get approvals for new wind farms in some countries — though more work remains, according to a report Monday from BloombergNEF.
In Germany, the region’s biggest wind power market, about 7.5 gigawatts of projects got permitted last year, up 80% from the year before and the highest since 2016, the researcher said. Spain has also accelerated its permitting, helping to clear the queue.
Still, some 55 gigawatts worth of onshore wind farms are waiting to be permitted across some of Europe’s biggest markets: Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK, according to BNEF. That’s about seven times as much capacity as those countries added last year. Waiting times can average as much as five years, more than double the limit imposed by the European Commission, BNEF found.
Permitting has long been one of the main deterrents to a faster buildout of onshore wind farms. Developers sometimes have to wait so long that turbines they planned to use at the beginning of the process are no longer for sale by the time they get a green light to build the project.
“Permitting of wind farms improved a lot last year, especially in Germany — but there’s still way to go,” said Giles Dickson, chief executive officer of industry group WindEurope. “The EU needs to build 30 gigawatts of new wind a year to reach its 2030 goals. Current permitting volumes are not enough for that.”
In late 2022, the European Union laid out a framework for member states to speed the deployment of renewable power. The measures included classifying renewable projects as in the “overriding public interest” a designation that would prevent lawsuits against new plants that can take years. The bloc also also sought to accelerate environmental impact assessments.
Those measures were critical to helping Germany reach the highest level of permitted projects in nearly a decade last year. Other markets such as Italy and France are lagging behind, BNEF found. Further measures such as digitalization will help eliminate the costly and burdensome practice of printing out permit applications that are tens of thousands of pages long.
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