General

Approval Process

Wait, please: are top energy Transition Projects protracted?

The challenges are the same throughout Europe: the energy transition – in other words, the restructuring of the electricity supply system in favour of renewable energy – is a clear political strategy aimed at helping to reduce global greenhouse gases. Against this backdrop, the expansion of electricity generation from renewable sources of energy is advancing rapidly. Enormous new wind and solar power potential has been tapped in Europe in the past decade alone.

However, lengthy approval processes for grid development projects mean that the power grids are still insufficient to fully implement the transition to renewables in Austria. The 380-kV Salzburg line project is an example of this. The legally foreseen periods for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) comprise nine months for the official process and an additional six months when an objection is lodged. Thus under the law, the regular EIA process is required to be completed within 15 months. The project has undergone one of the lengthiest reviews of any infrastructure project in Austria, with court proceedings having lasted a total of 77 months between the first instance and the proceedings before the Federal Administrative Court.

Consequently, it is becoming more and more difficult and costly to keep the power grid stable and thus maintain the power supply. The cost of congestion management is currently running at around €10 million per month.

The goals of the Austrian federal government’s climate and energy strategy set out in #mission2030 can only be achieved if good progress is made with the necessary grid expansion.

The energy Transition is currently faltering primarily in the area of grid Expansion.

Processes take too long – necessary decisions by the authorities take years

New power line construction projects are highly complex and subject to very stringent legal regulations. As a rule, new power lines must undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA). The Austrian EIA Act sets out that the environmental compatibility of a project must be demonstrated in over 20 fields in some cases. Thousands of pages of expert opinions and reports need to be prepared and submitted to the competent authorities. And the authorities, for their part, are required to have each expert opinion reviewed and evaluated by independent experts. When government decisions take a long time to be made, it is often due to this complexity. Then there are the levels of review by the courts, which follow after a notice of approval has been issued. The Salzburg line is a good example: all parties to the proceedings have the possibility of appealing against the decisions issued and taking legal action.

Among other things, the envisaged act on facilitating the preparation and implementation of residential and accompanying investments (Standortentwicklungsgesetz) is intended to shorten such excessively long proceedings and implement projects that are necessary for the development of the country more quickly, taking all EIA-related requirements into account.

Web Links

 Current projects by APG

 Environmental Impact Assessment Act of 2000, last amended on 12 October 2018 (in German only)