AWS Collaborates with WindEurope and Accenture to Streamline Wind Permitting in Europe
Wind energy is a strategic industry central to Europe’s energy security strategy. Wind already meets 17% of Europe’s electricity demand today¹. The European Commission wants wind to be half of Europe’s electricity by 2050. This move to clean and renewable energy is critical to decarbonise Europe’s economy but the backlog in wind permitting across Europe could significantly bottleneck the energy transition.
That’s why Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Accenture in collaboration with WindEurope developed a digital permitting solution prototype. We are calling on industry players to help further improve this pilot system, beta testing for the first time at the 2023 WindEurope Annual Conference. User feedback will refine the solution, so that when deployed, it can accelerate the time-to-value for wind farm developers, municipalities and local communities.
Heymi Bahar, Senior Analyst – Renewable Energy Markets and Policy at International Energy Agency (IEA) said, “The IEA has been working closely with the European Commission to provide multi-country advice on concrete measures to deliver on the RE-Power EU objective of affordable, secure and sustainable energy for Europe. Complex and long permitting of renewable projects is one of the key obstacles to faster deployment. The recently revised Renewable Energy Directive gives a set of specific regulations to pave the way for faster permitting. But Member States need further, technical support to get the permits done in 2 years, as opposed to up to 10 years as it happens in some countries. The IEA looks forward to seeing the results of the testing phase of this new permitting platform. The municipalities could take advantage of this tool to optimise the permitting process and deliver permits more rapidly and easily.”
Problem-solving for permitting processes
80 GW of wind energy projects are stuck in a permitting process across Europe². This is a big challenge for the industry. When a company wants to build a new wind farm, they need to consult with stakeholders, get community buy-in, and earn government approval.
Why? The permitting process is highly manual and involves coordination with many permitting authorities at local, regional and national level. In many jurisdictions, a single individual could be responsible for processing several 450-page paper permit applications, clarifying questions with developers, corralling the correct experts and collating all required cross-departmental input. That’s without the requisite stakeholder communication about the application’s progress.
Streamlining permitting, providing transparency
Leveraging Amazon’s distinctive “Working Backwards” innovation mechanism, the AWS, WindEurope and Accenture teams worked with permitting staff across several member states to develop a digital permitting solution.
Jakob Hasselgreen, a Senior City Planning Official in the Danish municipality of Vesthimmerlands said: “I can identify with all the pain-points when it comes to the permitting process. It was eye opening to see how existing technology can help with making the process more efficient for everyone: for me, for my colleagues, developer but also community members that I engage with to get them on board for the projects. If I can save mine and everyone’s time by having the right system to receive, file and dispatch documents, to use templates so that I don’t have to re work information for different internal and external purposes, I would be able to do things faster and dedicate time to the most important parts of the permitting process: ensuring the project is developed with respect to my community members and biodiversity. I can’t wait to pilot this in our municipality!”
Dawid Litwin, Mayor in the Polish municipality of Potegowo, said: “I took part in a digital permitting workshop. At first, I thought it was the regulations that had to change to speed up permitting for renewables. But then I realised that this has to go hand in hand with the digitalisation and optimisation of the whole process. I really like the idea of this tool. What I saw at the workshop looked too good to be true. If this indeed could be turned into a real technical solution, Potęgowo would be the first municipality to test it. Potęgowo is one of the most dynamically developing, innovative and investor-friendly municipalities in Poland. We are not afraid to invest innovative technologies to attract new projects.”
The solution prototype is a single platform to help permitting authorities and developers automate workflows, streamline approvals, and provide process transparency for a faster and better outcome for all stakeholders, including the permitting agent, the wind farm developer, as well as the community member.
Malgosia Bartosik, Deputy-CEO at WindEurope, said: More wind energy projects are needed to move towards the new EU 2030 42.5% renewables target³. The new EU Renewables Directives mandates EU countries to digitalise permitting processes within two years: this is a game-changer. Now we need to equip municipalities, city planners and permitting authorities with the digital tools to deliver on this. The right tools will make the permitting processes more efficient, save time and money for all stakeholders involved and improve social acceptance, ensuring no one is left behind in Europe’s energy transition. We need rules and tools. Regulation alone will not make it.
The end-to-end permitting solution, powered by AWS services, including AWS S3, Lambda, Amplify, Cognito, Textract, and Lex can enable local, regional and national agencies to:
- Reduce processing time through digitizing and automatically extracting data from documents, allowing permit agents to spend more time on the most valuable jobs.
- Increase accuracy of wind permit applications through automated checklists and workflow triggers and notifications for necessary agency stakeholders.
- Collect, manage and process all documents in a single repository.
- Have transparency on progress throughout the permitting process.
Templated workflows and application templates available on the platform can also help developers deliver more consistent project proposals whilst the public and other authorities will have improved access to useful information such as benefit assessments or environmental and economic impact documentation.
Doing more with digitization
An extremely competitive and ever-changing energy landscape around the world brings intense pressure to move faster and scale with less risk and cost, gain greater transparency and confidence, and ultimately innovate faster. Every business has to be thoughtful about how it does more with less. Projects that help our customers innovate faster on AWS move the needle to ensure a more efficient, innovative and sustainable energy transition.