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Proposed amendments in the wind power licensing system

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The Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tina Bru and Climate and Environment Minister Sveinung Rotevatn, held a press conference on 19 June 2020 presenting the parliamentary report on the licensing system for onshore wind power. The Government proposes certain amendments, i.a. in terms of tightened deadlines, maximum height of turbines and distance to buildings. Nevertheless, the main features of the licensing system remain the same, and the governmental authorities will still have the final say in wind power matters.

NVE halted all handling of license applications when they submitted the proposal for a national framework for wind power on April 1, 2019. Tina Bru confirmed on 19 June 2020 during the press conference that the handling of licenses will not be reopened until the Norwegian Parliament has processed this parliamentary report. Some of the proposed amendments are as follows:

NVE and OED should stay in control

The host municipalities shall be consulted at an earlier stage in order for them to participate in the planning. Nevertheless, it will still be the state authorities, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (OED) and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) that will make the final decision. When asked directly about this, Tina Bru replied that power supply is a national responsibility and that one must both ensure electricity for everyone and that it is connected to the grid structure. This responsibility cannot lie with the municipalities alone. In addition, better systems will be introduced for alerting neighbours and persons affected both before the concession process and along the way.

The Ministry will consider local taxes

The Government will not introduce new national taxes on onshore wind power, partly in light of low profitability in the industry so far and for the sake of a predictable regulatory framework. However, local taxes will be considered more closely. Specifically, the Government says it will "thoroughly assess the pros and cons of local compensation and return to the Parliament." We take this as a sign that the Government has listened to the suggestions that it would be more fair if the municipalities receive a larger share of the value added.

Tighter deadlines and fewer changes along the way

One of the clearest changes is the proposal for the tightening of deadlines. The entire process will be limited to a maximum of 6-7 years. In addition, there will be requirements for fewer changes to the project along the way, and that there should be a clear connection between the concession and the detailed design afterwards.

Maximum height and minimum distance to houses and cabins

In each individual license, conditions must also be set for maximum turbine height and a maximum distance of four times turbine height or minimum 800 meters for residential and leisure properties.

Possibility of early rejection

NVE has so far not had a formal right to refuse applications where they see that the level of conflict will be too high at a early stage, either for the sake of the natural environment or for the sake of local interests. In practice, NVE has advised applicants not to formally apply for a license, but NVE will now have the legal basis for issuing early rejections.

Requirements for owners

Strict requirements will be imposed on owners of wind turbines. The licensee shall have a responsible management who has both sufficient and the right expertise. The same shall apply to hired companies, and there will be increased control over construction and operation, better supervision and requirements for presence during the construction period. In addition, the Government will consider whether the requirement for a guarantee for clean-up and restoration costs, which today applies from the 12th operating year, should be placed at an earlier stage.

Improve the knowledge base, better cooperation and better assessments

Cooperation between the various governmental directorates will be systematised. The reindeer industry and Sami interests must be better safeguarded throughout the process. Therefore, the knowledge base and impact assessments will be required improved, without the Government going into further detail on what this specifically means in terms of measures. However, it is clear that more stringent requirements will be set for the licensing authorities' grounds for the decisions, i.e. the licensing authorities will be required to substantiate better why a project is considered to be socio-economically profitable.

Highlights - Proposed amendments in the wind power licensing system

Source: The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy

  • Better local and regional involvment
  • Own regional case handling
  • Tightened process with more and tighter deadlines
  • Possibility for early rejection of projects
  • Better coordination of production and grid
  • Better impact assessment, the County Governor will participate
  • Stronger emphasis on environment eg. about terrain intervention
  • Requirements for maximum height of turbines
  • Minimum distance requirements from the turbines
  • Better involvement of reindeer industry
  • Strengthened supervision during construction and operation
  • Clearer conditions regarding decommissioning
  • New requirements for owners regarding expertise and presence during construction
  • Further development of the knowledge base - better cooperation between government agencies
  • Better information for everyone involved
  • Consider a possible introduction of local compensation

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