On 19 June 2020, the Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tina Bru presented a Report to the Norwegian Parliament with a proposed tightening of the current license process regime, in the form of shorter deadlines for developers, more restrictive license requirements and increased involvement of local authorities.

The opposition to wind power in Norway has increased in parallel with the increased development of wind power in recent years. However, the Government has maintained goals and pursued a national policy aimed at further development of wind power in Norway, and withdrawal of granted is not an option. To better safeguard the interests of developers, local authorities and communities, interest groups and other affected parties, the Government has reviewed the wind power license regime. The goal is not to reduce the number of projects, but to make the process more predictable for all concerned and to reduce the level of conflict by securing local commitment and environmental considerations. This has resulted in the following proposed measures:

Joint regional processing to provide better local foundation and a better basis for assessing the overall impact

The Government proposes that various projects in a region should be considered in context. This will provide a better basis for assessing the overall impact and the grid capacity. The knowledge acquired in connection with the preparation of the National Wind Power Framework shall be utilised in the planning of new wind farms. In practice, the proposal will entail that NVE sets deadlines for the various steps in the licencing process, so that several projects are considered in parallel in the notification, application and consultation phases. Some projects may be exempted from such a joint processing.

An important consequence is that the authorities will be able to set deadlines for the submission of notifications of interest in development in a region so that notifications and licence applications may be processed in parallel.

Joint regional processing will make it possible to improve the local and regional political foundation. Developers must have a better dialogue with the host municipality, and the local community must also be involved. The County Governor will also be given an expanded role, and will contribute to impact assessments. Regional plans should be used in the planning.

Both notifications and applications for a facility licence must be submitted to local and regional authorities, landowners and community groups, interest groups and other stakeholders for consultation. Neighbours should be involved and informed to a greater extent than today.

NVE will prepare an instruction manual that includes the entire wind farm licencing process, which will be a tool for local authorities and stakeholders.

The municipality’s opinion shall still carry great weight, but no absolute right of veto is introduced. Stricter deadlines for development may remedy the fact that projects often change in the process because a long time passes between the municipality’s approval of the developer’s application until construction actually starts.

The deadlines will be sharpened and more will be required to make changes during the licencing process

The Government proposes to set shorter and clearer deadlines early in the process in order to reduce the time it takes from the interest is notified until the project is realised. In many projects, a source of conflict has been the passage of time, which has led to projects being changed several times between review and construction.

The proposal is to introduce deadlines for the preparation of impact assessments and for the submission of detailed plans after the licence has been granted. The deadline for commissioning must be set in the detailed plan, and should normally be 2-3 years, and may only be extended once, if there are special considerations.

The Government believes the licencing conditions should be more specific, such as e.g. determining a maximum turbine height. NVE will prepare proposals for revised standard conditions that will contribute to making the process more predictable, and ensure that environmental considerations are safeguarded. In continuation of this, it is proposed to require the developer to review and visualise several alternatives and dimensions in connection with the application. This, together with the various deadlines, will prevent the need for making major changes during the process.

NVE shall be given the opportunity to refuse notifications early. Neither the developer, the authorities nor others should spend time on unrealistic projects or on projects that will obviously cause considerable conflict.

Knowledge and considerations relating to non-priced factors

The Government wants to improve the knowledge base and facilitate cooperation between government agencies. Additional instruction manuals and a public information portal will be prepared.

NVE shall review and update the current review requirements and, if possible, adapt these to local conditions.

Impacts on the environment, neighbours and other activities will be given greater emphasis in the licencing processing in the future. This will in result in clearer demands being placed on developers to make the socio-economic profitability of the measure more visible. The Ministry has started the work of improving the systematisation of how advantages and disadvantages, which to varying degrees may be priced, should be considered.

Tax and local compensation

The municipal property tax is continued, and no new national taxes and fees are proposed. The Government will continue to assess the advantages and disadvantages of local compensation, and will revert to this at a later date.

Better coordination between production and network

The Government proposes to require that the notifications on new projects should include a preliminary assessment of the available grid capacity and include a description of the dialogue between the developer and the responsible grid company and a plan for the grid connection.

Stricter requirements for owners

The Government will place clearer demands on owners’ expertise, and the authorities’ supervision with the developers will be increased. The Ministry will consider whether the developer should be required to provide a guarantee for winding-up and clean-up costs at an earlier stage than what is required today.

The Norwegian Parliament is also expected to adopt proposal from the Socialist Left Party to review already granted wind power licences

On the same day the Government proposed restrictions on the processing of new wind power licences, the Norwegian Parliament shall vote over a proposal from the Socialist Left Party, and it is expected that the proposal will be adopted with a large majority. The proposal is expected to consist of the following three parts:

Firstly, the Norwegian Parliament requests the Government to consider whether the processing of wind power licences has complied with the energy legislation and the requirements of the Public Administration Act. If there are errors or insufficiencies in the licence, the public administration should stop the decision.

This means that the public administration shall review already granted licences. This will require extensive efforts, which may be very time-consuming. The proposal does not state whether projects with a licence should be stopped while this work is in progress, and it is not clear whether the proposal only affects projects where the construction has not started or whether projects under the construction also will be affected.

NVE and OED already conduct thorough reviews and assessments of relevant projects when processing the licence application, and, in addition, many of the same issues will arise in connection with the processing of the detailed plan and the MTA plan prior to construction, which means that errors and insufficiencies in the license should be revealed. It is not rare to see that new information on potential harmful effects result in requirements to the licensee as part of the MTA process. We therefore have no reason to believe that such review of granted licences will reveal systematic errors or insufficiencies.

Secondly, the Norwegian Parliament requests the Government not to extend the commissioning deadline beyond 31 December 2021 for onshore wind farms with a valid licence.

The fact that the deadline for deferred commissioning beyond 31 December 2021, which is the deadline for participation in the electricity certificate system, should not be granted already follows from current practice. NVE informed of this in November 2019, and the decision will therefore be of limited importance.

Thirdly, the Norwegian Parliament requests the Government to refrain from processing new wind power licences until the Norwegian Parliament has considered the Report to the Parliament on changes to the processing of licences for onshore wind power.

NVE halted the processing of new licence applications as early as April 2019, in connection with the submission of the National Framework for Wind Power. Although this was later rejected, the processing of new licence applications has not been resumed as far as we know. With that, also this part of the decision will in practice be of limited importance.