Efficiency and Public Acceptance of European Grid Expansion Projects: Lessons Learned across Europe

The adoption of the European Union’s target to increase the share of energy from renewable sources to 20 % requires a substantial modernisation and rebuilding of the electricity grid. Current grid projects are often delayed for a variety of reasons, such as the inefficiency of permitting procedures or local opposition. In fall 2011, the European Commission proposed a regulation which aims at enhancing the necessary grid expansion. The legislation was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in April and came into force on 15 May 2013. Among other considerations, the legislation aims at tackling the aforementioned challenges by making permitting procedures more efficient and implementing measures to increase the acceptance of new power-lines. However, questions remain about the quality and quantity of the proposed provisions designed to overcome all details of the identified problems. It will depend on the implementation of this legislation both on the European and on local level whether the new provisions will prove to be successful in terms of increased procedure efficiency and decreased public opposition. EU institutions, national governments, and competent public authorities should be aware of the area of conflict between improved procedure efficiency and increased public acceptance.

The European Union has set the stage for a significant increase in the use of electricity from renewable sources driven by the adoption of its 20-20-20 targets and the objective of creating a largely decarbonised power sector by 2050. Expanding and upgrading the continent’s ageing grid infrastructure is vital to achieving these ambitious energy and climate targets. The European Commission argues in the Green Paper “Towards a secure, sustainable and competitive European Energy network”, that “Europe’s energy networks are the arteries on which we all depend for the energy to fuel our homes, businesses and leisure.” 
To realise this energy transformation and to maintain energy security, the European electricity grid needs to be modernised, in order to be capable of integrating renewable energy from large-scale and distributed generation. The crucial question of how to do so in an efficient and sustainable way has been inadequately addressed to date. One key obstacle to the proposed grid expansion projects is local opposition traced to environmental and social concerns.
In October 2011, the Commission published its proposal for guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure. The European Parliament and the Council have adopted this proposal in April; it came into force on 15 May 2013. With the proposal, the Commission aims at overcoming a blockage in the construction of electricity infrastructure projects of European priority. Three reasons for the urgent need of new power lines are named: a) to foster market integration; b) to maintain a high level of system security; and c) to transport and balance electricity generated from renewable sources. European action is justified due to a range of obstacles for investment that are unlikely to be overcome under business-as-usual assumptions:
1) lengthy and ineffective permit granting procedures together with public opposition;
2) regulation not geared towards delivering European infrastructure priorities; and
3) limited financing capacities of operation.
This article aims at analysing the first point – the lengthy and ineffective permit granting procedures together with public opposition – in more detail by elaborating on three aspects. Section II takes up the first aspect by identifying and explaining the main challenges during permit granting procedures that make them lengthy and ineffective and foster public opposition. Section III takes up the second and third aspects, namely whether the proposed European legislation is designed to overcome these challenges; and what is already being realised in Member States to meet these challenges. In Section IV, final conclusions are drawn on what needs to be adapted in the future to realise these urgently needed projects.

Copyright: © Lexxion Verlagsgesellschaft mbH
Quelle: Issue 01/2013 (April 2013)
Seiten: 10
Preis inkl. MwSt.: € 41,65
Autor: Theresa Schneider
Antonella Battaglini

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