Written by 4:00 am EU Investment

EU must speed up approval of renewable projects, Denmark says

Denmark’s energy minister has called for European governments to do more to ease the process of approvals for renewable energy projects amid mounting pressure for them to diversify away from Russian fossil fuels.

Dan Jørgensen said that while the EU had “sent some good signals” about smoothing out permitting procedures, which can take as long as nine years for wind farms, “there is still potential for us to do better”.

“It’s not only about regulation but also, as public authorities, how you deal with these processes. How do you make sure that when the contractor is doing this project, they’re able to do it as swiftly as possible?” he said.

Denmark has a strong record in wind power: in 1991 it became the first country to build an offshore wind farm and aims to become a net exporter of green energy by 2030,

Jørgensen hosts an energy summit on Tuesday on the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm, where Denmark hopes to reach a deal with Germany, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to expand wind capacity in the region.

At a similar summit in May, Denmark agreed with Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands to increase wind power in the North Sea by 150 gigawatts — around 10 times Europe’s entire wind energy capacity today.

The EU has also set out good practice recommendations on permitting, which it said needed to be “drastically accelerated”.

There is currently 2.8GW of wind power in the Baltic, of which 1.5GW is Danish. The Danes believe there is the potential for up to 93GW in the Baltic but would need others to realise that potential. Talks on particular projects are already under way, officials have said.

European gas prices are almost 12 times higher than the levels this time last year, prompted by sharp cuts to gas flows from Russia in retaliation for the EU’s support for Kyiv following the invasion of Ukraine. This has ramped up the pressure to find ways to boost renewable energy production.

The European Parliament will in September vote on proposals to increase the share of renewables in the EU’s energy mix to 45 per cent by 2030, up from its current 32 per cent target.

However, the industry has made clear that these targets would be almost impossible to achieve. As well as the slow process to realising projects, material input costs have surged as China, which supplies much of the metals needed to make wind turbines, has grappled with Covid lockdowns.

Four of Europe’s biggest wind turbine manufacturers are lossmaking and face increasingly acute financial challenges as a result of the supply chain issues and development delays.

WindEurope, the industry body, has indicated that given the obstacles, developers would only be able to build 18GW of wind capacity per year between 2022 and 2026, far below the 37GW needed annually to meet the EU’s 45 per cent target.

Giles Dickson, WindEurope’s chief executive, said countries would need to come together to pool infrastructure given the level of investment in the electricity grid required to support renewable energy, which is typically far more volatile than fossil fuel power.

There are some indications that this is already happening. Kriegers Flak, the newest wind farm in the Baltic Sea built in 2021, is the first offshore wind project to have connections to multiple countries.

Jørgensen said: “We need to move away from single countries looking just at their own energy needs. We need to work together on this.”

He declined to give details of what he was targeting as a result of the Bornholm summit but said: “We’ll be quite ambitious and I think people will be positively surprised by the outcome.”

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