Industry welcomes ‘Go To’ renewables plan – but warns the name undermines it

The renewable energy industry has to ramp up installation rates to three or four times their current level for wind and solar to meet the EU’s renewable energy goals, delegates at Eurelectric’s annual meeting heard last week.
The ambition is there – and was endorsed by the lobby group’s members, who are energy utilities and distribution networks across the continent. But can the industry deliver? Permitting procedures are so slow across Europe that some projects take a decade to get the go-ahead, the industry complained.
The European Commission has a solution for its member states. It has proposed so-called ‘Go-To areas’ for faster renewables permitting, with measures such as environmental assessment carried out on a regional basis and renewables classified as being of ‘over-riding public interest’, severely limiting the grounds for objection.
The response was positive – with some refinements. One was using ‘triage’ so the best projects would not be held up by marginal ‘blockers’. Also important was making it clear where grid capacity was close and available – here GB’s ‘Open Data’ initiative won plaudits, not only because the information made available saves developers time but because in a virtuous circle it meant projects could be better designed. Speakers pleaded for similar openness in other countries – as, in fact, required by EU legislation.
But delegates were quick to sound one warning over the accelerated development zones: the name. ‘Go-To’ zones could quickly see other areas regarded as ‘No-Go’ zones, several speakers warned urgently. Concerted effort from opponents could see that becoming a de facto block on development, with projects told to ‘go there’ – ie to the Go-To zones. That was far from being the Commission’s aim.
It’s not clear what would be a better name for these areas – New Power would propose ‘acceleration zone’ as such areas also bring accelerated industrial development as the local supply chains will be required. First, however, the Commission has to hear the warnings over its current choice.