The role and value of local government in promoting wind and solar parks – approvals

  • 2023-06-22
  • Katrīne Pļaviņa Mika, Sorainen senior associate / Lelde Laviņa, Sorainen partner

It is often asked whether a local government is obliged to give its approval to the installation of an energy supply object on a local government’s property – in particular, to the networks that cross it?

The construction of a new energy supply facility (installation of production devices, networks, lines and accessories) usually requires third-party land being crossed in order to connect to utility networks. As a general rule, such construction must be agreed with the owner or possessor of the property to be crossed, including if the owner is a local government. With individuals, it is a simple matter of reaching an agreement – if this cannot be achieved and the exceptions where notification is sufficient do not apply, then other alternatives must be sought.

However, unlike a private individual, a local government is obliged to take into account national policy development planning documents, in particular in the field of environmental protection and renewable energy, which set out, inter alia, the following objectives:

- To ensure the energy independence of the state by increasing the provision of energy resources and integrating with EU energy networks

- improving energy efficiency and replacing fossil fuels with local and renewable energy sources

- shifting from the use of fossil fuels to the development of renewable energies

Consequently, as a public entity and implementer of national policy, the local government is obliged to treat renewable energy as a priority and to encourage the establishment of new energy production plants.

Firstly, the Development Planning System Law imposes an obligation on the local government to implement this policy through the adoption of specific decisions – the local government cannot deny the use of its land for a connection if there is no rational economic or technical justification for this.

Secondly, attention should be paid to whether the local government has included in its development planning documents the national priorities for the development of renewable energy sources, with the promotion of renewable energy installations as a strategic objective. Where local planning documents imply a commitment by the local government to promote renewable energy generation, the local government should take this commitment into account when assessing a private individual’s request for the necessary approvals for an energy supply facility.

Furthermore, the exceptions under the Energy Law also apply to local government, and they allow for the substitution of the approval procedure with the notification of the landowner. Namely, the energy supply merchants have the right to substitute the coordination procedure with informing the owner of the land in the following cases:

1. the installation of the energy supply merchant object is provided for in the territorial local government’s spatial plan or detailed plan

2. the energy supply merchant object is installed within the boundaries of red lines or public-use streets, within the boundaries of such road for which red lines have not been specified, or within the boundaries of an existing protection zone

3. the territorial local government has found that in the public interest the installation of the new energy supply merchant object or the utilisation of the existing object or the parts thereof are not possible without the utilisation of such land

4. the energy supply merchant object is installed within the protection zone of an existing energy supply merchant object and after installation thereof the width of the protection zone increases by more than 10 per cent, taking into account that in accordance with the procedures laid down in this paragraph the protection zone may be increased no more than once;

5. the energy supply merchant object to be installed has been assigned the status of an object of national interest and has been performed an environmental impact assessment

6. in other cases specified in law

As these are exceptional cases, a careful assessment must be made each time as to whether the statutory preconditions for replacing coordination with the owner with a notification are met.

In summary, local governments are obliged to implement national policies on renewable energy. Therefore, a local government cannot withhold its approval for the construction of a renewable energy grid within its area of jurisdiction unless there is an economic or technical justification for doing so. Furthermore, local government approval can also be replaced by informing the owner in cases provided for by law.