Let the Bureaucrats Save the World at COP27
Today, it takes a decade of documentation to build a wind energy project.
COP27 must deliver on faster permitting
The pledges are in. The technology is ready. We have everything we need to cut CO2-emissions in half by 2030 and get on track for the 1.5-degree target.
Everything except for enough permitted projects.
Today, 100s of gigawatts of renewable capacity are caught in complex and lengthy permitting procedures. These procedures are suffering from a lack of focus and essential resources. The authorities that drive them are missing the political will and mandate to make decisions that could shorten the process. It takes up to a decade of documentation to achieve approvals to build renewable energy projects. In the EU alone, there is four times more wind energy trapped in permitting than there is under construction.
Permitting represents a tangible, solvable barrier to the rapid scale up of wind energy. And more wind energy is one of the most direct pathway to solve the two biggest challenges facing the world today: the climate crisis and the energy crisis. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), reducing global carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement means that global installed renewable capacity must reach more than 10,000 GW by 2030. Today we have around 3,000 GW. That is just seven years to install more renewables than we have in the past 40.
This may sound impossibly ambitious, but there is a straightforward solution that would drastically accelerate our progress towards this goal: faster permitting for new wind power projects. By greenlighting more projects, we can expand sustainable power generation, replace fossil fuels and increase energy security. Furthermore, it will enable the wind industry supply chain to build sufficient scale to deliver on decarbonisation, jobs and economic growth.
Global crises are not solved with charismatic speeches. The solution is right in front of us, and it is less sexy to say the least. To fulfill the promises made by world leaders every year, we need to start implementing the technology we have. But right now, the wind industry is not permitted to solve the climate crisis. So now it is time for an unlikely hero: The Bureaucrat.
The Bureaucrat's Guide to Saving the World
Bold ambitions are nothing without
in global CO2 emissions is needed by 2030 to stay on track for the 1.5-degree target
of annual wind installations required by 2030 to stay on track, up from 94 GW in 2021
80% of projects
in the EU are caught in permitting processes, representing more than 88 GW of wind energy
Wind energy needs speed for scale
“People understand now that their buying power is directly linked to energy that powers their homes, and I don't think that link has been obvious to people before.” says Morten Dyrholm, group senior vice president at Vestas in this article, where he shares his perspective on the current combination of climate and energy crises together with Maria Marta Geraldes, Global Head of External Affairs at EDP.
Produced by EI Studios for Vestas
Global leaders must deliver at COP27
It's time to let the bureaucrats save the world with faster permitting
There is a sentiment, that it’s time for action. Enough with the bureaucrats. But the truth is, we need bureaucracy more than ever. We need a lean bureaucratic process to speed up permitting procedures. We are in need of an unlikely hero.
Bureaucrats must save the world.
Therefore, we have created a guidebook to help them do so. It contains our take on how to most effectively accelerate the permitting of new renewable energy projects to unlock the drastic build-out needed to stay on track for the 1.5-degree target.
Accelerate permitting and unlock the renewable build out in
Put renewables at the center of the emergency response
Whether it be the climate crisis or the energy crisis, renewable energy is the solution; to reduce emissions, stabilise energy markets, secure economic growth. More renewable energy ultimately builds more resilient societies.
- Renewable volumes must be drastically increased. More renewable capacity is critical to build more resilient energy systems. Resilience means long-term energy security, reduced vulnerability to fossilfuel volatility and reduced vulnerability to geopolitical shifts.
- Energy investment and energy system flexibility must be incentivized. When powered by a larger share of renewables and increased system flexibility, energy systems and energy markets can become more stable and predictable in the long-term, and therefore more attractive for investment
- Permitting processes must be shortened. Permitting challenges are preventing renewable energy from expanding in energy systems, and these bottlenecks persist in spite of constant talk about expediating them from policy makers
Set short firm deadlines
It currently takes up to a decade of documentation to permit green energy projects. We need to set shorter, firm deadlines and assign resources to ensure these deadlines can be met.
- The permitting process for new projects should run for a maximum of two years for both onshore and offshore wind projects
- The permitting process for a repowering project should run for a maximum of one year
- The 2-year deadline should include all administrative work, grid permits and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs)
Rethink decision making around bio-diversity impacts
In many countries, 100 percent of onshore wind projects are challenged in the courts based on nature protection legislation. While the impact on local environments must be respected, we need to balance this with the potential to protect consumers from energy security risks, and the overall acceleration of the climate crisis; in itself a critical threat to biodiversity.
- Adjust decision-making procedures to allow central governments to play a larger role, offer more support to local authorities and build speed and consistency in the approach to permitting, aligned with renewable energy targets.
Boost permitting resources
To unlock faster permitting, we also need to invest in bureaucracy. Skilled people, digitalization of processes and empowered decision makers are critically needed to turn permitting promises into reality.
- Strengthen the capabilities and resources in regional and central governments to be able to process the volume of permit cases now and in the future growth scenarios
- Differentiate between input providers and legally binding decision makers to ensure that overlapping decisions tracks do not slow down the permitting process
- Increase digitalization in the operational handling of permitting cases within permitting authorities
- Collaborate more closely with the private sector, allowing companies to carry the burden of permitting complexity, with public authorities performing final approvals
Learn more about the value of faster permitting
Wind Electricity - More efforts needed
"In 2021 wind electricity generation increased by a record 273 TWh (up 17%). This was 55% higher growth than that achieved in 2020 and was the highest among all renewable power technologies. Such rapid development was possible thanks to an unprecedented increase in wind capacity additions, which reached 113 GW in 2020, compared with just 59 GW in 2019. However, to get on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, which has approximately 7 900 TWh of wind electricity generation in 2030, it is necessary to raise average annual capacity additions to almost 250 GW, more than double 2020’s record growth. Much greater efforts are needed to achieve this level of sustained capacity growth, with the most important areas for improvement being facilitating permitting for onshore wind and cost reductions for offshore wind."
World Energy Outlook 2022
"With the world in the midst of the first global energy crisis – triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine – the World Energy Outlook 2022 (WEO) provides indispensable analysis and insights on the implications of this profound and ongoing shock to energy systems across the globe.
Based on the latest energy data and market developments, this year’s WEO explores key questions about the crisis: Will it be a setback for clean energy transitions or a catalyst for greater action? How might government responses shape energy markets? Which energy security risks lie ahead on the path to net zero emissions?"
Global Wind Report 2022
"Wind energy is not growing nearly fast or widely enough to realise a secure and resilient global energy transition. At current rates of installation, GWEC Market Intelligence forecasts that by 2030 we will have less than two-thirds of the wind energy capacity required for the 1.5°C and net zero pathway set out by IRENA in their 2050 roadmap, effectively condemning us to miss our climate goals."
Industry recommendations on accelerating permitting for wind energy
"On 18 May 2022, the European Commission published its “REPowerEU Action Plan”: a set of initiatives that will help the European Union to wean itself off Russian fossil fuel dependency by fast forwarding renewables build-out. Crucially, the REPowerEU Action Plan acknowledges the need for wind energy permitting to be “drastically accelerated”. The Commission therefore tabled a new legislative proposal on renewables permitting, and presented recommendation and guidance to Members States for simplifying processes.
In addition to the European Commission’s steer, the European wind industry is sharing with national Governments a full list of measures they can additionally take to simplify and accelerate permitting for renewables. These include for instance applying common sense spatial planning rules, streamlining judicial frameworks to maximum 2 legal appeals, or applying the principle of “positive silence’ to all renewable energy projects."