Territorial planning, public participation and repowering of existing renewables: keys to a sustainable energy future

The 28th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP28) on Climate Change has just concluded in Dubai with a key agreement: tripling global renewable energy production. This is undoubtedly an unquestionable step towards achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement, but it should not be at any price: the large-scale deployment of renewable energies must be carried out in a planned manner that respects biodiversity and the territory to avoid adverse effects such as habitat modification, landscape alteration, increased risk of erosive processes or social unrest, among others.  

In addition to international commitments to tackle climate change, the war in Ukraine has intensified the need for energy independence in the countries of the European Union and has led to a frantic race for the implementation of renewable infrastructures. Spain aspires to be a leading country in the EU in this field, as can be seen from the latest draft of the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), which sets an ambitious target of 160 GW of installed renewable power by 2030, compared to the 113 GW foreseen in the previous version. In addition, the draft NECP indicates that the renewable installed capacity in Spain in 2022 was 70,452 MW, exceeding that of conventional technologies. This figure places Spain as the eighth country in the world in terms of renewable installed capacity, according to the 2022 ranking of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).  

 In this context, the International Institute for Law and Environment presents a study that analyzes recent regulatory instruments to address the energy transition, both at national and regional level, in addition to identifying good practices in the implementation of renewables, possible delays and priority areas for action. “The recent revision of the Renewable Energy Directive, known as RED III, includes requirements that highlight the importance of planning and participation instruments, through the identification of renewables acceleration areas by means of plans, which will facilitate the planned deployment of renewables that respects biodiversity and the territory.”, says IIDMA’s director, Ana Barreira.  

As a starting point for the analysis, the regions of Galice, Asturias and the Canary Islands have been selected as interesting autonomous regions due to their different territorial particularities to be considered when facing the challenges posed by the energy transition. “Although the autonomous communities analysed have some planning and participation instruments already adapted to the requirements of RED III, it is necessary to harmonise national and regional efforts”, says IIDMA’s environmental lawyer and co-author of the briefing, Marta Vicioso.  


Considering the importance of the location of infrastructures to limit the environmental and territorial impacts that could result from the implementation of new renewable energy installations, IIDMA considers that the development of binding planning, in line with the requirements of the Red III Directive, is essential. At present, the location of projects is selected almost unilaterally by the developers themselves, with little room for public intervention in this respect. It is also necessary to create Offices for the Location of Renewable Energies, which would serve to channel coordination between the General State Administration and Autonomous Communities. “These offices would streamline the process of environmentally responsible siting of new renewable energy projects, channelling the public participation phase and ensuring greater involvement of local actors”, says the Institute.  

Also, to encourage public participation, IIDMA recommends the promotion of spaces for dialogue such as the Galician Offshore Wind Observatory. These bodies make it possible to create places for analysis and information to develop projects that take into account biodiversity, compatibility with maritime-fishing activities and tourism, as well as strengthening the supply chain and detecting regulatory, normative or planning needs.  

Finally, the repowering of existing renewable energy facilities allows for a better use of resources and less environmental impact by replacing obsolete wind turbines with latest generation models, with the capacity to double the energy generated.   

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