The provisions of Law 4685/2020 and the following Ministerial Decisions lead to some important reforms regarding the simplification of environmental licensing as well as the licensing renewal and amendment procedure of specific RES projects.

Overall, the existing procedures are simplified whereas shorter and stricter deadlines are introduced.

In particular, the most significant amendments of the RES licensing procedure under Law 4685/2020, include among others:

* New deadlines for the submission of the applications for Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are regulated. For non-special wind onshore, PVs and hybrid plants, the submission of the application is set to six months from the issuance of the Certification. If a Special Ecological Assessment is required, the six-month period is increased by twelve months (18 months in total). If a project does not meet these deadlines, the Production License/Certification is cancelled.

* The validity period of the Environmental Terms Approval Decision (AEPO) is extended. The AEPO will be valid for fifteen years, whereas the duration previously was set to ten years.

* The digitalization of the environmental licensing procedure. Namely, from January 1st, 2021, the environmental licensing procedure shall be carried out through the Digital Environmental Register.

* The creation of a Central Council of Environmental licensing (“KESPA”). The competent bodies who did not -under the time limits set by Law-, submit their opinion for the approval of environmental conditions for the project in question or have submitted a negative opinion, shall participate in the Council. The Council will require them to deliver their opinion in order to decide whether it will be accepted or not.

* The creation of a register of Certified Assessors, who will participate during the whole licensing procedure. The operator of the project may delegate to an Assessor the completion of all or some of the stages of the procedure. The processor may carry out the completeness check, request the convergence of the competent Councils and submit a Draft Decision approving the Environmental Terms to the competent authority.

The abovementioned body of Assessors could possibly assist the competent administrative bodies and ensure that the deadlines set by Law are followed.

*  The amendment of the framework applicable to Natura 2000 sites and the classification of four distinct zones in Natura area according to which the installation of RES projects within each area is permitted or not.

* The establishment of an Electronic Waste Register (HMA) for the systematic collection and processing of waste generation and management data, as well as the registration of any organization or company that produces waste or carries out waste treatment operations.

Ministerial Decisions in line with Law 4685/2020.

* The Ministerial Decision ΥΠΕΝ/ΔΙΠΑ/74463/4562 (OJ B’ 3291/2020) includes amendments regarding the environmental classification for certain RES projects. In particular:

– RES PV projects of up to 1 MW do not need an Environmental Terms Approval, whereas PV projects of more than 1 and up to 10 MW will require only Standard Environmental Commitments.

– Wind projects of up to 10 MW will require Standard Environmental Commitments instead of an approval of environmental terms (AEPO).
RES projects classified under category A2 (RES PV projects with a capacity exceeding 10 MW) will still require an Environmental Terms Approval (AEPO).

The same Ministerial Decision also states that power storage units connected to RES projects, will be environmentally classified the same as the main RES project.

* The Joint Ministerial Decision ΥΠΕΝ/ΔΑΠΕΕΚ/74123/2971 (OJ Β’ 3149/2020) includes important provisions for RES PV projects. Under this Decision, the threshold for the maximum capacity of PV projects installed or to be installed on high productivity agricultural land, was regulated. Specifically:

– PV stations are allowed on high productivity agricultural land if their capacity does not exceed 1MW (<1MW) and as long as the total capacity of the PV projects already installed or to be installed, on agricultural land per Prefecture Unit, does not exceed the thresholds set in the Joint Ministerial Decision.

Edited by Dafni Sotirchou