The Government has presented a white paper on the licensing process for onshore wind. The white paper proposes amendments to secure anchoring with local, regional and Sami interests, stricter time limitations for the licensing process, licenses with more detailed conditions and less flexibility for the projects, tightened requirements on impact assessments and consequences for landscape, environment and neighbors of the project and socio-economic profitability.
Furthermore, it is expected that the Parliament will adopt a proposal to review whether all existing wind power licenses have complied with the energy legislation and the Public Administration Act.
White Paper on amendments to the licensing process for onshore wind.
The white paper on proposed amendments to the licensing process for onshore wind was presented by Minister of Petroleum and Energy on 19 June 2020. Development and construction of several onshore wind projects in Norway have over the latest years been contested. The purpose of the proposed amendments is to increase local and regional involvement in the licensing process and to a higher degree take into account the projects’ impact on landscape, environment and the local community, and to mitigate the conflict between onshore wind projects and such interests. The Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Tina Bru, confirmed during the press conference on 19 June 2020 that the licensing process for onshore wind projects will be continued to be halted until the white paper has been considered by the Parliament.
In short, the main proposed changes to the licensing process for onshore wind in the white paper are:
Local and regional anchoring
The municipality, the county and the County Governor will be more actively involved in the process. The municipality and the county shall participate in NVE’s planning of the licensing process, hereunder be consulted during the different phases, to give their assessment of the specific projects. The same applies for the Sami Parliament, the reindeer husbandry and other Sami interests in Sami areas.
The white paper also calls for joint regional licensing processes for counties or regions with several projects under development to review the joint impact of the projects.
We note that NVE will continue to be the decision-making authority and to secure the national and regional interests relating to energy supplies, no absolute veto rights for the municipalities are proposed.
Time limitations and the possibility to deny a license early in the process
The Government proposes to introduce several time limitations during the different phases of the licensing process:
- a time limit for a notification of a project to be included in joint regional process;
- a time limit for completion of the impact study (two years as a main rule);
- a time limit for presenting a detailed plan (two years unless there are material reasons for a prolonged deadline);
- a time limit for commencement of construction ( as a main rule two to three years from approval of the detailed plan). The time limitation may be prolonged one time if there are special circumstances.
The time limitations proposed for the licensing process for onshore wind are similar to the time limitations adopted for the licensing process for offshore wind in the Ocean Energy Act Regulation.
Furthermore, it is suggested that NVE is authorized to deny initiated licensing processes early if it is clear that a license will not be granted.
Less flexibility and stricter license conditions
The Government proposes clearer license conditions with less flexibility. This include maximum height of WTGs, minimum distance to buildings and installations and conditions relating to environmental values. Together with a stricter time limitations for development and construction, such amendments are intended to secure fewer changes to the project during the licensing process.
Stricter requirements to impact assessments and consequences on landscape, environment, local community and neighbors.
According to the white paper the consequences on the environment, the local community and neighbors must be clearly described and taken into account in a higher degree in the licensing process. Based on the white paper we understand that the Government intends to strengthen the decision basis for project licenses, hereunder the possibility to assess whether a project will be socio-economic profitable and to make such assessments more visible in the licensing process.
Requirements on owners of wind parks
It is suggested to include requirements in the licenses to the licensee’s contact person. Hereunder that such contact persons have the necessary competence and that the contact persons are available on site during the construction period. The authorities’ supervision of wind parks under construction and commissioned wind parks will also be tightened.
Taxation and arrangements for local compensation
The Government does not propose any amendments in the taxation of onshore wind to ensure predictability and profitability for the industry. However, it is indicated that arrangements for local compensation will be assessed.
The white paper include the following summary of the proposed amendments:
|Changes in:||What and who||Today’s situation||Changes|
|The municipality||Party to the hearing with right of objection and right of appeal||• Contact with the developer in early phase|
• Advise NVE on the timeframe
• Consultation with NVE in the notification and application phase
|The county||Party to the hearing with right of objection and right of appeal||• Advice NVE on process, including deadline for submitting notification to the county/region|
• Consultation with NVE in the notification and application phase
|The local community||Party to the hearing||• Improved information and guidance|
• Active involvement
• Improved notices to the neighbors
• Local interest organizations more involved
|The County Governor||Party to the hearing with right of objection and right of appeal||• Advice NVE and Energy Directorate on impact study program and follow-up of the study|
|The reindeer husbandry||Party to the hearing and consultation||• Active involvement in early phase|
• Premise supplier to the impact study
• Contribute in the whole process
|Other authorities||Party to the hearing with right of objection and right of appeal||• Contribute with updated requirements for impact study and templates for conditions|
• More systematic dialogue between authorities
• Update on a common knowledge base
• Contribute to a new guidance for licensing procedure
|Geographical scope||Single treatment is the main rule||• Joint licensing process for the county/possibly the region.|
|Screening||No legal basis to avoid full licensing||• Possible to reject early in the process|
|Impact study||Possible to improve the study||• Updated requirements to impact study|
• Study direct greenhouse gas emissions
|Licensing procedure:||Sami interests||Consulations with reindeer husbandry and the Sami Parliament||• Better involvement of the reindeer husbandry|
• Participation to impacts studies
• Greater emphasis on sum effects
• Better coordination of objection and consultation
• Documentation on participation and agreement on mitigating and compensatory measures is given priority in treatment
|Basis for licensing decisions||Possible to clarify decisions||• Better assessments of socio-economic profitability (advantages and disadvantages)|
• Better systemization and visibility of the considerations/trade-offs
• Effects on the environment, society and neighbors shall be given greater emphasis, including sum effects
• Requirement for pre and post examinations
|Changes along the way||Great flexibility for changes along the way||• Better coherence between the license and the detailed plan, clearer conditions, fewer and smaller changes along the way|
|Transmission||Production and grid are seen in context by NVE||• Developer must consider grid connection at an earlier stage|
|Timeframe||Potentially a very long time from planning to commissioning||• More predictable timeframe with new deadlines during the process.|
|After license: |
|Supervision||Great flexibility and wide scope for supervision||• Clearer conditions that provide basis for a better supervision|
• Strengthening of supervision in the construction and operation phase
|Close-down||No guidance||• Clearer rules and guidance on close-down and clean-up|
• Previous provision of a guarantee for close-down costs will be considered
The white paper is available here.
Proposal to review all existing onshore wind project licenses
Also on 19 June 2020, a proposal from the Norwegian Socialist Left Party to review all existing wind project licenses will be voted on by the Norwegian Parliament.
It is expected that the proposal will have the following wording:
- “The Parliament requests the Government to assess whether the processes for existing wind power licenses have complied with the energy legislation and the Public Administration Act. If there are errors in the licenses the public administration shall stop the decision”
- “The Parliament requests the Government, within the applicable legal framework, not to prolong the time limit for commissioning for existing licenses beyond 31 December 2021.”
- “The Parliament requests the Government to refrain from processing any new onshore wind power licenses until the Parliament has considered the white paper on the licensing process for onshore wind.”
Neither the second proposal regarding deadline for commissioning for exiting licenses, nor the third proposal regarding halted processing for new licenses imply any changes from NVE’s current practice. The Minister of Petroleum and Energy also confirmed during today’s press conference that the processing of new licenses will continue to be halted.
However, the scope of the first proposal regarding an assessment of all existing wind power licenses is unclear. Which projects that will be subject to such review, hereunder whether it will include also projects under construction and commissioned projects, the legal grounds to “stop the [license] decision” on a general basis if errors in the license are identified and the implications of stopping the “decision” are not stated and are highly unclear based on the proposal.
It is expected that a majority in the Parliament will vote in favor of the proposal.