Slow wind farm approvals risk green goals, say renewable energy giants

The heads of two of the largest renewable energy companies have called on governments to vastly speed up the approval process for new wind farms or risk falling short on green goals.

The chief executives of Denmark’s Vestas and Ørsted, the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and biggest offshore wind farm developer, respectively, said that governments needed to back up their green rhetoric by making it easier to go through an often convoluted planning process.

“We need a fundamental review on how we dramatically shorten the consenting process,” said Ørsted chief executive Mads Nipper.

Asked if he thought governments were doing enough to solve the energy crisis, Vestas chief executive Henrik Andersen said: “I think not. We spend a lot of time listening to why they’re going to apologise for why they didn’t do what they should have done in the past five years. There is a task force required in every government right now that needs to accelerate permitting.”

The issue has long dogged the wind industry where projects can be delayed for years by byzantine processes and legal challenges, in some cases leading to turbine designs being obsolete by the time permits are granted.

But the problem has gained fresh urgency in the energy crisis as particularly European countries try to wean themselves off Russian energy and look to renewables for the long term.

The European Commission threw its weight behind attempts to speed up permitting in May, saying that the principle that renewables are in the “overriding public interest” should be enshrined in EU law and that projects should receive approval within one to two years.

But the industry is still frustrated at the speed in certain countries, with enormous backlogs of projects still waiting for approval to begin. There is more than eight times the amount of wind capacity waiting for permitting than under construction in Germany, Spain, and Poland, according to analytics company GlobalData.

“OEMs [manufacturers], we are ready, and we could do more,” said Andersen.

Nipper stressed that governments’ actions needed to match their lofty promises: “Ambitions are critically important, and they are going up and up and up. But that’s only the first mile of the marathon. It needs to be followed by policy measures.”

He pointed to the example of the US, where a new climate bill, passed by the Senate last weekend and expected to be adopted soon, boosts wind and solar energy as well as using renewable power to make hydrogen. Both chief executives called the US legislation crucial for its green ambitions.

But Nipper emphasised that alongside such initiatives, the length of time needed to approve projects has to be “fundamentally shortened”.

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