Calling for “immediate action” to meet the EU’s recently adopted target of at least 42.5% renewable energy by 2030, European Commission Vice-President for the Green Deal Maroš Šefčovič , presented a “European Wind Energy Action Plan” as a way to achieve this.
Ahead of the upcoming UN climate talks COP28 in Dubai in which he will participate, Šefčovič noted that the wind sector faces a unique set of challenges on a global scale, including insufficient and uncertain demand, slow permitting and complex and a lack of access to raw materials. .
“This package will help the European wind sector to grow domestically and compete globally, thereby reducing dependence on external suppliers and creating green jobs for workers,” he said. declared.
But it’s easier said than done. One of the most important aspects of the action plan is that the Commission has committed to publishing guidance for EU member states to follow in designating their “renewable energy acceleration zones” where authorization will be clearer and easier.
This has been one of the key demands of NGOs and renewable energy industry associations, who have pushed for more predictable and credible planning on where renewable energy installations can and cannot go.
Giles Dickson, CEO of the Wind Europe Association, said the guidelines will be a “game changer”, pointing out that persistent permitting bottlenecks are holding back the sector. Environmental NGO The Nature Conservancy has also pushed for clearer permitting procedures, which it says can be implemented without endangering biodiversity and nature.
“Member States now have 27 months to designate these zones. We therefore have a crucial window of opportunity to ensure that they use clear, consistent and credible criteria.
that builds trust between stakeholder groups and, in doing so, delivers win-win outcomes for
climate and biodiversity,” said Rebecca Humphries, TNC climate policy manager for Europe.
Concerns about the environmental and aesthetic damage that wind and solar farms can cause are one of the main obstacles to the deployment of renewable energy around the world.
Because they can be unpopular with local residents, permitting decisions can often be passed around like a hot potato between local and national politicians, with no one willing to make a decision.
An example is that of the United Kingdom, where the Conservative government imposed a ten-year moratorium on the construction of onshore wind turbines, deeming them unsightly and
intrusive on nature.
Under pressure from environmentalists on one side and rural voters on the other, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak decided late last year to absolve the national government of all responsibility and pass building permits to the local authorities.
But critics say these municipal politicians will be even less likely to resist the local political pressures of the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) phenomenon. “It poses huge challenges,” Alan Whitehead, an MP for the opposition Labor Party, said at a TNC event in London earlier this year.
Pippa Heylings, local councilor for the English district of South Cambridgeshire, said at the event: “We need to have a much more national view of the best places to develop wind energy and not leave ourselves to the whims of some local players. . decide that it’s not for us here, it should be somewhere else. We need a national land use plan.
She said the new law amounts to the same situation as the moratorium because of its confusing wording.
Although the UK will not benefit from the EU’s new Renewable Energy Acceleration Zone guidelines, campaigners hope the guidelines can have an influence on a global scale.
They will push at COP28 for best practice cases and methods to be understood and learned globally. One of these tools is a platform called “Site Renewables Right” developed by TNC.
“It is a scientific approach that uses advanced spatial mapping and the latest scientific advances.
techniques for mapping low-biodiversity conflict zones,” said Noor Yafai, TNC Europe
Director of Global Policy.
This can not only ease public concerns, but also reduce costs and speed up permitting procedures. The goals set at COP28 will be meaningless if countries do not develop clear policies and guidance on how to implement them, Yafai said.
“The credibility with which they are implemented, the coherence of the approach, that’s all
will be absolutely decisive.
This platform is already used in the Balkans and has identified a country in Croatia where solar and wind energy can be deployed without serious impact on wildlife thanks to the
potential to meet more than half of the country’s renewable energy targets.
“We started with a pilot project to ask ourselves: can we develop renewable energies while preserving nature? and we took a country from Croatia as an example,” said Dragana Mileusnic, TNC director for Southeast Europe.
“These are spatial plans – essentially maps identifying areas where solar and wind energy can occur without causing conflict, or with minimal conflict with other industries and wildlife. We worked with local experts who carry out energy planning for the Croatian government, pairing them with global scientific experts in the United States. We also involved local stakeholders.
Mapping has since expanded to Serbia and Montenegro.
“When the war in Ukraine began in 2022, our work accelerated at a pace we could not have predicted,” she said.
“In Serbia, we were able to engage local stakeholders on the ground, organizing roundtables in economic centers and getting feedback from municipal authorities and local NGOs, as well as nature conservation experts, agriculture, tourism, etc. »
TNC’s preliminary scientific findings concluded that there is more than enough suitable land to meet the EU’s new renewable energy target, but it warns that this can only be done if all parties stakeholders work together from the start – to avoid any unpleasant surprises down the road.
In this process, environmental and socio-cultural sensitivities must be taken into account from the outset, as do network conditions. This is why TNC has teamed up with Eurelectric, the European association of electricity producers, to collaborate on the planning.
UAE COP28 Presidency calls on countries to commit to global target of 11,000 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity by 2030, translating to a tripling of 3,629 GW installed globally by the end of 2022.
This objective corresponds to the paths recommended by the International Energy Agency. Activists welcomed this intention, but emphasize that without a clear plan to address bottlenecks in permitting, resources, manpower and public opposition, this goal cannot be achieved.
(Edited by Nathalie Weatherald)