Introduction
Emerging trends from upcoming legislation
Game-changing framework and trends


Introduction

In the context of the EU Green Deal and the Net Zero Industry Act, the European Union aims to develop an environment favourable to a faster roll-out of renewable energy projects. In this context, a Council Regulation aimed at accelerating the deployment of renewables was recently adopted.(1) Under this emergency regulation, developers of renewable energy projects benefit from general and technology-specific advantages. This article is the second in a two-part series and focuses on the trends and innovative framework arising from the legislation presented by the European Commission.(2)

Emerging trends from upcoming legislation

In March 2023, the European Commission presented the Net Zero Industry Act, a draft regulation, and the draft Critical Raw Materials Act. Although these proposals are potentially subject to changes and still need to be adopted, clear trends can be identified in view of the emergency regulation (for further details please see "New potential advantages for renewable energy projects under EU Green Deal implementation: part one").

The Net Zero Industry Act would provide for a temporary framework (two years in the draft version) to further facilitate the roll-out of net-zero technologies. Net-zero technologies entail, among other things:

  • renewable energy technologies;(3)
  • electricity and heat storage technologies; and
  • heat pumps and grid technologies.

The Net Zero Industry Act intends to further reduce the administrative burden for developers of renewable energy projects. The draft provides for similar advantages with regard to the emergency regulation (eg, the limit on the duration for permit-granting processes and advantages with regard to environmental assessments), but would benefit more types of projects given the broad definition of "net-zero technologies".

The draft also provides for other measures that were not included in the emergency regulation. The Net Zero Industry Act aims at establishing one national competent authority as the point of contact for project promoters in each member state across the European Union. These authorities would facilitate and coordinate the permit-granting process and help to further reduce the administrative burden. The draft also provides for more generous advantages to the benefit of so-called "net-zero strategic projects". Projects involving the following technologies may qualify as "strategic":

  • solar photovoltaics;
  • solar thermal;
  • onshore wind;
  • offshore renewables; and
  • battery and storage;

These strategic projects would enjoy a priority status to ensure they receive the most rapid (administrative) process treatment and more generous limits on the duration of the permit-granting process.

Game-changing framework and trends

The emergency regulation aiming at accelerating the deployment of renewables converts some of the soft recommendations enacted earlier by the European Commission(4) into binding obligations.

Regarding solar-specific advantages, the emergency regulation does not substantially change much for traditional rooftop solar projects, since permits and environmental impact assessments are almost never required in the European Union to install photovoltaics on rooftops. The emergency regulation may, however, boost the development of specific (ground-mounted) solar projects, though in a limited manner. Indeed, the limit on the duration for the permit-granting process does not apply for solar projects on artificial water surfaces, nor for structures for which solar energy production is the primary aim.

Regarding the advantages as they benefit other renewable energy projects, they can significantly boost wind projects, particularly when it comes to repowering existing wind turbines. However, it is unclear what sanctions could apply if the competent authority fails to respect the limit on the duration of the permitting processes. Furthermore, the emergency regulation does not tackle delays that may result from appeals procedures. Finally, the emergency regulation gives latitude to member states to adapt the scope of certain advantages.

In sum, the innovative potential of the emergency regulation may seem, at first, rather limited. But upon the adoption and the further implementation of the Net Zero Industry Act, renewable energy projects may benefit from a more significant boost compared to the current emergency framework.

For further information on this topic please contact David Haverbeke, Wouter Vandorpe, Nicolas Celis or Guillian Baclin at Fieldfisher by telephone (+32 274 270 00) or email ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]).The Fieldfisher website can be accessed at www.fieldfisher.com.

Endnotes

(1) Council Regulation (EU) 2022/2577 of 22 December 2022 laying down a framework to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy.

(2) For the first article in this series, see "New potential advantages for renewable energy projects under EU Green Deal implementation: part one".

(3) Renewable energy is to be understood as energy from renewable non-fossil sources, namely:

  • wind, solar (solar thermal and solar photovoltaic) and geothermal energy;
  • ambient energy;
  • tide, wave and other ocean energy;
  • hydropower;
  • biomass;
  • landfill gas;
  • sewage treatment plant gas; and
  • biogas.

(4) Commission Recommendation of 18 May 2022 on speeding up permit-granting procedures for renewable energy projects and facilitating power purchase agreements.