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25 May 2020
On 5 May 2020 Parliament passed a law modernising environmental legislation and harmonising Greek law with EU Directives 2018/844/EU (amending the directives on the energy performance of buildings and energy efficiency) and 2019/692/EU (amending EU Directive 2009/73/EC concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas). This new Law 4685/2020 (OJ A' 92/2020) contains legislative measures which will significantly amend, standardise and simplify the current licensing procedure for renewable energy power plants – particularly the procedure for obtaining a renewable energy source (RES) production licence and an environmental approval.
One of the most important changes introduced is the replacement of the production licence with a certificate. The Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) is authorised to issue these certificates, but the law provides for the possibility of a future ministerial decision delegating this authorisation to another person or authority.
Applications for issuing a certificate must be submitted via the electronic register, which will be established according to the provisions of the new law. Each year there will be three application rounds, which will take place during the first 10 days of February, June or October.
The new law envisages two different application procedures and subsequently two different types of certificate: one for special projects and one for all other RES projects.
The following projects are defined as 'special projects':
Of the two envisaged procedures, the procedure for obtaining a special project certificate will inevitably be more complex and time consuming, as more documents and studies will have to be prepared, submitted and reviewed. However, applicants will not be burdened with paying a levy for issuing such certificate.
The documents uploaded to the electronic register with the application for the issuing of the special project certificate should include:
As noted above, applications for plants which do not belong to the category of special projects will be processed faster, but applicants should in addition to the levy for the application, paid by all applicants, pay a levy for the issuing of the certificate into the special RES account. The levy will depend on the plant capacity and will range from €3,000 per megawatt for plants with a capacity up to 1MW to €1,000 per megawatt for plants whose capacity exceeds 100MW. In any case, the levy will not exceed that which corresponds to a plant with a capacity of 250MW.
Both types of certificate will be issued for 25 years and may be renewed for another 25 years. Applicants must carry out the remaining licensing procedures and conclude a power purchase agreement within a reasonable timeframe. Otherwise, their certificate will automatically cease to be valid and the land location and grid capacity will be freed. Thus, a certificate will automatically expire if, for example, the holder (in the case of a photovoltaic or onshore wind plant) fails to:
A regulation on the above licensing procedure is expected to be issued within three months of the law's adoption.
In cases of limited network or insufficient carrying capacity in a municipality or spatial overlapping of projects for which applications have been submitted during the same round, the RAE will request that the applicants concerned negotiate to resolve these issues. If this fails, the RAE will comparatively evaluate the applications based on certain criteria (eg, titles of land ownership or possession), which will be further specified in the forthcoming regulation. In cases of insufficient carrying capacity in a certain municipality, during the evaluation period, the RAE will not issue certificates for applications made during subsequent application rounds.
Further, the new law introduces various provisions that aim to simplify and expedite the environmental licensing procedure (including the renewal and amendment of the environmental approvals), as experience has shown that the respective deadlines envisaged in the pre-existing legal framework are seldom met. Thus, the environmental approvals will be valid for 15 years, instead of 10, on the condition that the circumstances under which they were issued remain unchanged. The deadlines for completing the environmental licensing process, with the exception of the public consultation deadlines, are significantly reduced, and certain stages of the procedure have been merged. It is also noteworthy that a request on behalf of the authorities for the submission of supplementary data by the applying project operator does not constitute a reason for the authorities to delay the evaluation of the file submitted.
According to the Ministry for Environment and Energy's announcement, this law was the first step in the government's strategy to simplify the development of RES in Greece. The next planned step is the simplification of the procedures for the issuing of two important licences – namely, for the establishment and operation of a plant. The law introducing these amendments is planned to be passed within the next three months.
For further information on this topic please contact Mira Todorovic Symeonides or Maria Ioannou at Rokas Law Firm by telephone (+30 210 361 6816) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Rokas Law Firm website can be accessed at www.rokas.com.
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