These days everyone seems to be talking of the increasing of renewable energies and there seems to be a pan-European consensus that the changed geopolitical situation was the last straw, which will finally lead to an increase in the speed of building self-sustaining, renewable energy systems. Investors, technologies and industries are ready. All we need now is the solidification of political will from abstract goals to concrete deeds that will enable the extensive implementation of many such projects.
Early this year, Great Britain was preparing an ambitious strategy that aimed at a huge increase in the use of renewable energy. Boris Johnson’s government depicted high-ambition objectives to triple solar power and double wind power by 2030.
If implemented, the strategy would have taken the country a significant step toward self-sustaining energy production, decreasing its dependency on e.g. imported natural gas. Sorry to say, on the final straight before the approval of the strategy, the political discussions and the upcoming elections caused the strategy to become less ambitious – the remaining wordings naturally continue to be favorable to renewables, but they are noticeably more cautious. The situation in Great Britain provides a regrettably familiar example of the practical hindrances to the building of renewable energy systems.
At this moment, there are more renewable energy systems being built than ever before. In 2021, we obtained new capacity worth 295 GW (IEA), and this growth is expected to accelerate; the vistas in this field are, literally, full of sunshine. It is indisputable that renewable energy is not only an ecological and self-sustaining option, but also in the future, the most economical form of energy. However, in order to increase its volumes and to reach the demanding objectives of our decision makers, we now need actions.
The European Commission stated its position in early March when it published its plan: the REPowerEU lists objectives and actions with which self-sustaining, renewable energy projects should be sped up. The EU’s solar energy strategy aims to bring online over 320 GW of solar capacity over the next three and a half years. However, there are two key challenges hindering these projects, and these challenges must be cleared in order for us to reach the ambitious goals.
The first challenge relates to licensing processes. Streamlining and speeding up such processes is essential for us to be able to increase the volumes of renewable energies. In Finland, for example, licensing processes are subdivided among several organizations, and both the applications and the possible appeals are processed with meager resources; that causes process lead times to be remarkably long, which in turn causes projects to be delayed.
The second challenge, brought up by the European Commission as well, is the insufficient capacity of the electrical power transmission systems. In many European countries, such as e.g. Great Britain in some areas, this forms the key hindrance that prevents renewable energies from being made available. Extensive investments are needed in the electrical power transmission systems. In Finland, the situation regarding electrical power transmission is partly better, thanks to the frontloaded investments made by Fingrid; this is not to say that there would not be room for improvement in Finland as well.
In Finland, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Emma Kari, proposed in the government’s budget planning session that a new government agency be established. The proposed agency would deal especially with environmental impact issues. The establishment of the agency would harmonize and speed up processes that are regionally out-of-synch, and on the other hand, it would concentrate competences and resources in one place. This is an excellent idea.
At the same time, Kari brought up the economic impacts of accelerated licensing processes by stating, “Here we have the opportunity to put in a few million and get projects advanced worth ten billion euros”.
This is exactly how it is. Investors, industries and technologies are ready, all of them. Instead of speeches, we now need decisions and deeds.