As part of the “EU Action plan for nature, people and the economy”, the European Commission has issued two guidance documents on energy transmission infrastructure and hydropower, explaining the steps that need to be taken under EU nature legislation when such energy projects are prepared. They aim to improve the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives on the ground while ensuring a safe, sustainable and affordable energy supply across Europe.
Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said:
“Our objective is to ensure that EU nature laws deliver for nature, people and the economy. Today’s guidance documents offer practical recommendations to guarantee that renewable energy developments do not pose further threat to our species, habitats and Natura 2000 sites. By allowing everybody involved in the preparation of renewable energy projects to consider environment early in the process, they will facilitate projects that work with nature, and not against it.”
The guidance documents are designed primarily for use by Member States competent authorities, project developers, scientific experts and consultants, Natura 2000 site managers, non-governmental organisations and any other stakeholders involved in the planning and approval process of energy projects in accordance with the requirements of the EU environmental legislation. They underline the need for strategic planning that takes into consideration, early on in the process, the ecological requirements of protected species and habitats and wherever possible, they include measures to improve their conservation status.
The “Energy transmission infrastructure and EU nature policy“ guide provides an overview of how energy infrastructure projects on land and at sea can operate in accordance with the requirements of the Nature Directives. It presents examples of best practice and mitigation measures to help ensure that activities related to energy transmission and distribution facilities for electricity, gas and oil are compatible with EU environmental policy in general and nature legislation in particular. It will therefore support the implementation of the TEN-E Regulation, establishing an EU-wide framework for development of energy infrastructure in harmony with EU nature legislation.
The guidance document “The requirements for hydropower in relation to EU Nature legislation” offers guidance and presents a series of practical case studies on how hydropower can operate in accordance with the requirements of the Habitats and Birds Directives. It examines the effects hydropower activities might have on the environment and illustrates, through a series of practical experiences, how these can be avoided or at least minimised under a range of different conditions.
Following a thorough evaluation of the EU’s nature protection laws, in April 2017 the European Commission adopted an action plan to improve their implementation and boost their contribution towards reaching the EU’s biodiversity targets for 2020. EU Action plan for nature, people and the economy proposed 15 concrete actions to be carried out between 2017 and 2019 focusing on four priority areas: – Improving guidance and knowledge and ensuring better coherence with broader socio-economic objectives; – Building political ownership and strengthening compliance; – Strengthening investment in Natura 2000 and improving synergies with EU funding instruments; and – Better communication and outreach, engaging citizens, stakeholders and communities.
Source – EU Commission