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Romania: A Faster Transition to Renewable Energy – The Highest Priority of REPowerEU

Romania: A Faster Transition to Renewable Energy – The Highest Priority of REPowerEU

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REPowerEU is about rapidly reducing the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels by fast-forwarding the clean transition and joining forces to achieve a more resilient energy system and a true Energy Union.

In the context of speeding up the transition to renewable energy so as to achieve the ambitious renewable energy and efficiency targets, we greatly welcome the Commission’s Recommendation on permitting-related issues (Recommendation).

Understanding that bureaucratic permitting processes are a primary obstacle to achieving a competitive renewables energy sector, the Commission suggests: (1) faster and shorter deadlines for permitting procedures; (2) circumscribing the permit-granting procedures into a sole process; (3) designing a one-stop shop for granting permits for renewable energy projects; (4) introducing the positive administrative silence principle, where the lack of response by the competent authority within the legal deadline would mean acceptance, unless an express response is required by EU or national legislation; and (5) digitalizing permit-granting procedures.

A main step for materializing this Recommendation is the European Commission legislative proposal to correspondingly amend the relevant provisions of Directive (EU) 2018/2001 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and of Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings (Proposal).

The Proposal aims to limit lengthy and complex administrative procedures by establishing the following: (1) introducing the term “renewables go-to area” meaning those areas located on land or sea which shall be identified by the member states as being particularly suitable for the installation of renewable energy projects while observing also the environmental impact; (2) clear and faster deadlines for the permitting procedures; (3) the entire permitting procedure shall not exceed one year for projects in renewables go-to areas or two years for outside projects; (4) setting up a contact point to guide the applicant and facilitate the entire process, which will be conducted through the respective contact point.

The principles mentioned in the Recommendation, as well as those under the EU Proposal, are similar to the ones considered by Romania’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRRP). Under the RRRP, the reform of the electricity market includes the simplification of licensing and authorization procedures for investments in renewable sources and shorter and mandatory administrative response deadlines accompanied by procedures for preventing unnecessary delays.

However, accelerating the progress of transition to renewable energy implies effective amendment of Romania’s national legislation to meet the purpose. Although progress on legislative framing appears rather slow, several initiatives for improvement with a direct impact on the implementation and development of renewable energy projects are ongoing.

In this regard, it is worth mentioning the draft law amending and supplementing Land Law no. 18/1991, adopted by the Senate of Romania on February 2, 2022, currently registered with the Chamber of Deputies under no. 22/07.02.2022 (Land Law Amendment). The Land Law Amendment mainly targets the following: (1) including electricity production facilities from renewable sources amid the exemptions that allow building on extra muros farming land; (2) the possibility of removing the land from the agricultural circuit, only in respect of the surface affected by the development; (3) the removal of the lands from the agricultural circuit will be done upon obtaining the construction permit. If adopted, the Land Law Amendment will automatically simplify and shorten the permitting procedures for developing renewable energy projects on extra muros farming land.

Also, amendments to Energy Law no. 123/2012 are expected, with the competent bodies currently working on proposals to include therein simplified procedures for granting investment authorization licenses.

It remains to be seen how long it will take for Romania to harmonize the national legislation with the principles under the Recommendation. Starting with March 2023, each member state will have an obligation to provide the Commission with updated information on the implementation status of the Recommendation at a national level.

Based on the updates and feedback received from member states, within two years of the Recommendation’s adoption (meaning in 2024), the Commission will assess whether further measures are required and review the proposed measures accordingly.

By Siranus Hahamian, Partner, and Ioana Chirita, Associate, Ijdelea & Associates

This Article was originally published in Issue 9.6 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.

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