The comprehensive reform package will prove significant for plants powered by renewable sources
Law Decree No. 13 of 24 February 2023 (the so-called NRRP Decree 3), published in the Official Gazette of the Italian Republic No. 47 of 24 February 2023, entered into force on 25 February 2023, introducing important novelties regarding plants powered by renewable sources. NRRP Decree 3 must be converted into law by Parliament within 60 days of its publication, otherwise it will lose its effectiveness from the beginning. Upon conversion into law, some provisions may be amended.
MAIN PROVISIONS CONCERNING THE CONSTRUCTION OF RES PLANTS
Suitable areas and reduction of buffer strips (Article 47)
The buffer zone of protected assets (i.e. the distance from the protected area that must be taken into account in order to consider the area suitable for the installation of a RES plant) is reduced to 3 km (compared to the previous 7 km) for wind plants and to 500 m (compared to the previous 1 km ) for photovoltaic plants.
All the sites and plants within the airport grounds are areas suitable for the installation of RES plants, and no longer only those within the perimeter of the airports of minor islands.
Projects in areas adjacent to areas under landscape protection and opinion of the Ministry of Culture (Article 47)
As a result of the amendments to Article 12 of Legislative Decree 387/2003, the Ministry of Culture (MIC) participates in the Single Authorisation procedure (SA) for RES plants only if the project is located within a protected area and only if the project is not subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The involvement of the MIC is no longer envisaged for project in areas adjacent to protected zones.
Single Authorisation procedure (Article 47)
The SA procedure now includes the EIA and the maximum time limit for the completion of the procedure is 150 days (previously it was 90 days in addition to the time limit for the completion of the EIA procedure). With regard to EIA proceedings ongoing as of 25 February 2023, the SA procedure may be initiated even if the EIA has not yet been granted.
PAS – Simplified Authorisation Procedure (Article 49)
With reference to the PAS (regulated by art. 6 of Legislative Decree No. 28/2023 and intended for renewable source plants that are generally smaller than those for which a SA is required), after the elapse of the term of 30 days from filing the application (within which the competent Municipality may block the project), the applicant must send a copy of the application to the relevant Region for its publication in the Regional Official Bulletin. From the day of publication, the term for challenging the PAS begins. It is therefore now clear when the time limit for challenging the PAS starts.
MAIN PROVISIONS RELATING TO EIA AND IEA PROCEDURES
EIA and IEA Procedures Coordination (Article 19)
Upon request of the applicant, the EIA and the Integrated Environmental Authorisation (IEA) procedures may be coordinated through the establishment of a special working group, and the application to start the integrated EIA and IEA procedures is a single one.
Fewer documents to be submitted with the EIA application (Article 19)
Applicants are no longer obliged to enclose the prior verification of archaeological interest to the EIA request and it is specified that in any case the issuing of the EIA is not subject to the completion of the prior verification of archaeological interest pursuant to Article 25 of Legislative Decree no. 50/2016 (so-called Public Contracts Code) or to the execution of the preventive archaeological tests provided for by Legislative Decree no. 42/2004 (so-called Cultural Heritage Code).
Simplification of EIA in exceptional cases (Article 14)
In the event that is necessary to proceed urgently with the realisation of interventions of State competence provided for in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) and in the National Plan for Complementary Investments (PNC), the Minister in charge of the implementation of the intervention may propose to the Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security an exemption from the EIA, in according with the provisions of art. 6, paragraph 11 of the Environmental Code. This provision stipulates that the purpose of the national and European regulations on the environmental impact assessment must be respected in all cases and that the European Commission must be informed of the reasons for the exemption before the authorisation is granted.
MAIN PROVISIONS CONCERNING PHOTOVOLTAIC PLANTS
Simplified procedures for the installation of photovoltaic plants (Article 47)
Ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) plants and related works located in industrial, artisanal and commercial areas, as well as in closed and restored landfills or landfills lots, or in caves or cave sites that cannot be further exploited, are considered extraordinary maintenance activities, and therefore do not require the obtaining of permits or authorisations. If such works are to be carried out in an area subject to landscape restrictions, the relevant project must be notified to the competent Superintendency, which may issue a reasoned refusal within 30 days of receipt of the notification.
Installation of PV and thermal plants on buildings (Article 47)
With reference to areas subject to restrictions, the construction of PV and thermal plants on buildings is permitted subject to the approval by the competent Superintendency within 45 days from the date of receipt of the application. Once this period has elapsed without notification of the reasons why the application cannot be granted, the authorisation is deemed to have been granted and is effective immediately. The 45-day period may be suspended once and for a maximum of 30 days if the Superintendency indicates within 15 days of receipt of the application, the need to carry out in-depth investigations or make changes to the project.
MAIN PROVISIONS ON WIND POWER PLANTS
Wind power plants (Article 49)
The construction of wind power plants with a total capacity of up to 20 kW, located outside protected areas or those belonging to the Natura 2000 Network, is considered ordinary maintenance work and does not require the acquisition of any permits or authorisations.
MAIN PROVISIONS ON ELECTROCHEMICAL STORAGE PLANTS
Electrochemical storage plants (Article 49)
A PAS is required for electrochemical storage plants that are combined with renewable energy plants, where the plants are already in operation or have been authorised, even if not yet in operation. Therefore, unlike in the past, there is no longer a requirement that the electrochemical storage plants must not occupy new areas approved under the PAS.
MAIN PROVISIONS ON AGRI – PHOTOVOLTAIC PLANTS
PV plants located in agricultural areas (Article 49)
- After defining suitable areas PV plants located in agricultural areas are considered ancillary to the agricultural activity and can be freely built if:
- they are located outside protected areas or areas belonging to the Natura 2000 network;
- they comply with all the requirements applicable in areas subject to direct or indirect landscape restrictions;
- they are built directly by agricultural entrepreneurs or by joint ventures with electricity producers to which the company or branch of company is conferred by the same agricultural entrepreneurs to whom the entrepreneurial management activity is reserved, except for the technical aspects of the operation of the plant and the transfer of energy;
- the solar panels are installed on top of the plantations at a height of two metres or more above the ground, without concrete foundations or difficult to remove;
- the construction methods provide for their effective compatibility and integration with agricultural activities as a support for the plants or for parcelled irrigation systems and the protection or partial or mobile shading of the crops underneath for the purposes of the simultaneous implementation of monitoring systems, to be implemented on the basis of guidelines adopted by the Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of Agricultural Economics, in collaboration with the GSE.
- In any case, the construction is subject to the prior agreement of the owner and the farmer of the fund.
MAIN PROVISIONS ON GREEN AND RENEWABLE HYDROGEN
Simplifications for the development of green and renewable hydrogen (Article 41)
Integrated chemical plants for the production of green and renewable hydrogen are included in the projects to be subject to the State EIA procedure, listed in Annex II to Part II of Legislative Decree 152/2006 (the so-called Environment Code) and, according to Article 8 of the Environmental Code, projects concerning plants for the production of green or renewable hydrogen are included among those to be given priority with regard to the State EIA procedure.
MAIN PROVISIONS ON ENERGY COMMUNITIES
Access to incentives (Article 47)
Energy communities whose powers of control are exercised exclusively (i) by small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises, including through their sectoral organisations; (ii) by agricultural cooperatives carrying out the activities set forth in Article No. 2135 of the Civil Code (i.e. land cultivation, forestry, livestock farming and related activities); (iii) by cooperatives or their consortia as referred to in paragraph 2 of Article 1 of Legislative Decree No. 228/2001 (i.e. those that mainly use the products of their members to carry out agricultural activities or that mainly provide their members with goods and services for the maintenance and development of the organic cycle), may benefit from the incentives set forth in Article 8 of Legislative Decree No. 199/2021 for renewable source plants, including agri - photovoltaic plants, even if the power output exceeds 1 MW and, without prejudice to the payment of grid fees, for the portion of energy shared by plants and users not connected under the same primary cabin, as an exception to the requirements set out in the same Article 8 of Legislative Decree No. 199/2021. The electricity produced by the plants of the energy communities and fed into the grid remains at their disposal.
The above provisions shall apply to the other forms of self-supply from renewable sources referred to in Article 30 of Legislative Decree no. 199/2021 carried out by (i) agricultural entrepreneurs; (ii) agro-industrial companies operating in the food, beverage and cork processing industries; (iii) agricultural cooperatives carrying out the activities referred to in Article 2135 of the Civil Code and (iv) cooperatives or their consortia, as referred to in paragraph 2 of Article 1 of Legislative Decree No. 228/2001, irrespective of their members.