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EU Council Regulation 2022/2577 was published on 29 December 2022 laying down provisions to streamline and speed up authorisation procedures for the construction of plants powered by renewable energy sources.

The Regulation, in force since 30 December 2022, is directly applicable for the next 18 months in each Member State and can be extended.

Below is a brief summary of the most significant provisions:

(i) Article 3 introduces a relative presumption of public interest to be taken into account when weighing up interests for the planning, construction and operation of energy production plants from renewable sources;

(ii) Articles 4, 5 and 7 provide for a reduction in the time limits of authorisation procedures:

  • for the installation of solar energy equipment and co-located energy storage systems, including building-integrated solar energy systems and rooftop solar energy equipment, the time limit is no longer than 3 months;
  • for the revision of the capacity of renewable electricity generation plants that leads to an increase in capacity, the time limit is no longer than 6 months, including the necessary environmental impact assessments;
  • for the revision of the power of the above-mentioned installations, which does not lead to an increase in capacity, the time limit does not exceed 3 months, unless there are justified safety problems or a technical incompatibility of the system components;
  • for the installation of heat pumps with an electrical capacity of less than 50 MW, the time limit is no longer than 1 month or, in the case of geothermal heat pumps, 3 months;

(iii) Article 6 provides that Member States may exempt renewable energy projects, as well as grid energy storage projects necessary to integrate renewable energy into the electricity system, from an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and species protection assessments, provided that the project is located in an area dedicated to renewable energy or on the grid infrastructure necessary to integrate renewable energy into the electricity system.

The measures introduced by the Regulation, although temporary, are aimed at stimulating the European-wide dissemination of renewable energy through, in particular, the simplification of administrative procedures, which at the national level, the legislator has – in part – already implemented, e.g. Decree Law 76/2020 (“Simplification Decree”), Decree Law 77/2021 (“Simplifications bis”) and, also, Decree Law 50/2022 (“Aid Decree”).

The recent draft of the new Simplification Decree drawn up by the government -still pending approval and publication- is also part of the drive to simplify and accelerate authorisation procedures for the construction of power plants.

Among the most significant points are:

(i) Article 66: the simplified enabling procedure (PAS) pursuant to Legislative Decree 28/2011 is applicable, on a transitional basis and until 31 December 2025, to the construction and operation of photovoltaic plants with a capacity of up to 50 MW and the connection works to the transmission or distribution electricity grid, provided that the energy produced by the plants is transferred to the GSE for a period of at least fifteen years;

(ii) Article 70: agri-voltaic plants, if placed outside protected areas or areas belonging to the Natura 2000 Network and within the limits allowed by any provisions where they are placed in areas subject to direct or indirect landscape constraints, are considered instrumental artefacts to the agricultural activity and can be freely installed, if the solar panels are placed on top of plantations at least two metres above the ground, without concrete foundations or if they are difficult to remove, and if the construction methods provide for their effective integration with agricultural activities;

(iii) Article 71 provides for the merger of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with the Single Authorisation (AU). In fact, the AU under art. 12 Legislative Decree No. 387/2003, is issued at the end of a single procedure that includes the EIA by the PNRR-PNIEC Commission, which forwards its opinion directly to the services conference;

(iv) Article 72: the procedure for off-shore plants for energy production from renewable sources located off the Italian coast is simplified. Specifically, the Regulation provides that the construction and commissioning of off-shore plants for the production and storage of electricity from renewable sources shall be subject to a simplified authorisation that supplements the EIA, replaces any other necessary document, and constitutes the necessary prerequisite for the granting and maintenance of the concession of use of state-owned areas and other occupied marine areas.