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EU must speed up approval of renewable projects, Denmark says

EU must speed up approval of renewable projects, Denmark says

The Danish Energy Minister has called on European governments to do more to facilitate the approval process for renewable energy projects, while increasing pressure on them to move away from Russian fossil fuels.

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

“It’s not just about regulations, but also about how you, as a government, deal with these processes. How do you make sure that when the contractor does this project, they can do it as quickly as possible?” he said.

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Denmark has a strong track record in wind energy: 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 is organizing an energy summit on Tuesday on the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm, where Denmark hopes to strike 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 – about 10 times the total wind power capacity of Europe today.

The EU also issued good practice recommendations on licensing procedures, which it said needed to be “drasically accelerated”.

There is currently 2.8 GW of wind energy in the Baltic Sea, of which 1.5 GW is Danish. The Danes believe there is potential for up to 93 GW in the Baltic, but need others to realize that potential. Talks about certain projects are already underway, officials have said.

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

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

However, the industry has made it clear that these goals are almost impossible to achieve. In addition to the slow process of realizing projects, material import costs have skyrocketed as China, which supplies many of the metals needed to make wind turbines, faces coronavirus lockdowns.

Four of Europe’s largest wind turbine manufacturers are losing money and facing increasingly acute financial challenges due to supply chain problems and development delays.

WindEurope, the industry association, has indicated that given the obstacles, developers could build only 18 GW of wind capacity per year between 2022 and 2026, well below the 37 GW required annually to meet the EU’s target of 45 percent.

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Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope, said countries should work together to bundle infrastructure, given the level of investment in the electricity grid needed to support renewable energy, which tends to be much more volatile than fossil fuel energy.

There are 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 with connections to multiple countries.

Jørgensen said: “We have to move away from individual countries that only look at their own energy needs. We have to work on that together.”

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

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