Wind and solar projects can accelerate if permitting is streamlined

wind and solar

In its latest global Insights Briefing – ‘Streamlining planning and permitting to accelerate wind and solar deployment’ – the Energy Transition Commission (ETC) has highlighted how governments, civil society and wind and solar developers can take action to reduce unnecessary delays caused by common planning and permitting barriers in renewables deployment, whilst maintaining strong environmental, bio-diversity and social safeguards.

According to the ETC, addressing planning and permitting barriers is critical to ensuring the deployment of renewables at the speed and scale required to ensure rapid cuts to emissions. They estimate that the world could miss out on up to 3,500 terawatt hours (TWh) of clean electricity generation from wind and solar in 2030 (a shortfall of over 20 per cent) due to key barriers to wind and solar deployment including cumbersome and time-costly planning and permitting policies.

Putting into place simple measures to streamline planning and permitting can reduce project times by more than half for wind and solar projects. Offshore wind project timelines could be reduced from 12 years to 5.5 years, onshore wind timelines could be reduced from ten years to 4.5 years and utility-scale solar timelines could be reduced from four years to just over one year. Implementing these actions would remove a key barrier to clean electrification and accelerate the transition to net-zero.

“Urgent action is needed to deliver planning and permitting systems that will drive the transition to a net-zero economy,” said Adair Turner, chair of the ETC. “Governments, developers and civil society need to work together to remove barriers and focus on reducing development times for vital wind and solar projects.”

The Insights Briefing, which is part of the ETC’s ‘Barriers to Clean Electrification’ series, identifies three major categories of planning and permitting barriers: regulatory, administrative and societal. Key actions to alleviate these problems include setting clear targets for power sector decarbonisation. creating ‘one-stop-shops’ for permitting, and ensuring effective stakeholder engagement, among many other recommendations.

“Reforming the planning and permitting processes is critical to the acceleration of renewables deployment globally. This report helpfully highlights good practice from around the globe and sets out clear recommendations for policymakers on what can be improved to reduce the time it takes on average for an offshore wind project to be developed from 12 years currently to potentially five and a half years,” said Alistair Phillips-Davies, CEO at SSE. “While it is good to see the UK recognised as a world leader, to maintain this status we need to accelerate rapidly the pace at which we are now building low-carbon infrastructure – not only in terms of renewables but strategic investment in electricity networks and flexible technologies that will help balance and lower the cost of a net zero power system.”

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