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In its latest global Insights Briefing, “Streamlining planning and permitting to accelerate wind and solar deployment”, the ETC highlights how governments, civil society and wind and solar developers can take action to reduce unnecessary delays caused by common planning and permitting barriers in renewables deployment.
 
Clean electrification is the backbone of the transition to net-zero and will provide over 60% of all energy consumed in 2050, up from 20% today. A global energy system based on clean electrification will require dramatic growth of wind and solar capacity – an increase of 5-7 times by 2030.
 
Addressing planning and permitting barriers is critical to ensuring the deployment of renewables at the speed and scale required to ensure rapid cuts to emissions. ETC estimates that the world could miss out on up to 3,500 TWh of clean electricity generation from wind and solar in 2030 (a shortfall of over 20%) due to key barriers to wind and solar deployment including cumbersome and time-costly planning and permitting policies.
 
ETC analysis shows that putting into place simple measures to streamline planning and permitting can reduce project times by more than half for wind and solar projects. Offshore wind project timelines could be reduced from 12 years to 5.5 years, onshore wind timelines could be reduced from 10 years to 4.5 years and utility-scale solar timelines could be reduced from 4 years to just over 1 year.
 
The Insights Briefing, which is part of the ETC’s Barriers to Clean Electrification series, identifies three major categories of planning and permitting barriers: regulatory, administrative and societal. Key actions in these areas include:
 
Regulatory – setting clear targets for power sector decarbonisation (e.g., by 2035) and the renewables and grids that will be required to meet this, assigning priority status to renewable energy projects, dedicating sufficient land, setting and enforcing streamlined permitting targets, allowing some permit flexibility (including minor changes to assigned permits), limiting legal challenges, and assigning clear property rights (where these are limited).
 
Administrative - creating “one-stop-shops” for permitting, sufficiently staffing permit roles, digitalising the permitting process, and creating digital spatial mapping tools and environmental data banks to aid deployment planning.
 
Societal - ensuring effective stakeholder engagement, benefits-sharing with local communities, for example, in the form of shared community ownership schemes, ensuring access to clean electricity or reducing energy costs, improving aesthetics of renewable technology, managing socioeconomic and environmental impacts (particularly on biodiversity) for local communities.
 
National and regional governments and policymakers bear the largest responsibility for driving progress and taking bold action to drive renewables deployment, by streamlining approvals processes. In the short-term, they should prioritise solutions such as increasing the land available for wind and solar projects, applying the rule of positive silence to automatically grant permit applications after a period of time has elapsed, encouraging solar panel installations on all suitable public buildings, and ensuring sufficient staffing within permitting departments which can dramatically reduce delays.
Developers, local authorities and civil society also have a key role to play in delivering progress. Wind and solar developers should effectively engage with stakeholders during project planning and construction to minimise environmental and social impacts and ensure benefits-sharing with local communities. Local authorities and civil society must also play a role in ensuring communities are appropriately informed, prepared and resourced to engage with renewable developments.
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