Energy Update: The government is developing a one stop shop in order to streamline the environmental permit processes in Finland
Renewable energy projects affecting the environment, such as wind and solar projects, currently require multiple permits from different authorities, which may make the permitting processes rather burdensome and unpredictable. To tackle this, the government is looking to streamline and standardize the permitting process by developing a "one stop shop" in order to boost new investments in Finland and make the processes more predictable.
The Ministry of Environment has set up an observatory body during the fall 2023 which will be responsible for the coordination and collaboration of the initiative. Under this broader "one stop shop" initiative, a legislative initiative aiming to streamline the permitting process is being developed by a separate working committee.
A new authority will be developed for the permitting process
According to the Government Programme, in the future only one authority would be responsible for the progress and coordination of the permitting process, as well as obtaining necessary assessments and having prior discussions with the applicant of the process and upcoming permit obligations. The scope of the new authority would entail tasks falling under key environmental legislation, such as Environmental Protection Act, Water Act, Act on the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedure and Nature Conservation Act. The permitting process, including phases from permitting to supervision, will be assembled into one authority but the permitting branches will still exist broadly across the country. The goal is to strengthen consistent decision making and procedures regardless of the geographical location.
Developing a "one stop shop" will require developing a practical and user-oriented digital platform which enables the applicants to perform the permitting process phases in one place. The initiative will also require conducting an extensive reform of the regional administration as the new authority would consist of National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (in Finnish: Valvira), Regional State Administrative Agencies (in Finnish: Aluehallintovirasto) and environmental authority of the EDTE Centers (in Finnish: ELY-keskus).
In order for the work to be as functional as possible, it is aimed to be divided into the following main categories:
- Developing the Act on the Reconciliation of the Environmental Permit Processes (764/2019, in Finnish: Eräiden ympäristöllisten lupamenettelyjen yhteensovittamisesta annettu laki) to correspond with the new, yet to be developed authority
- Developing the joint permit process of environmental permits, water permits, land extraction permits and certain permits under the Nature Conservation Act
- Streamlining and clarifying the permit processes, the EIA process and Natura assessments
- The relation of EU legislation with the Act on the Reconciliation of the Environmental Permit Processes and the priority treatment of green transition projects
Projects that require multiple permits involving multiple different authorities will certainly benefit the most from this initiative, but it will nonetheless be beneficial in all projects and making Finland an even more inviting investment opportunity.
Government proposals open for consultation in 2024
An observatory body will operate until the end of 2025 and it is estimated that the government proposals would be open for consultation during 2024. The proposals are intended to be developed in parallel with the reform of the regional administration being prepared in the Ministry of Finance.
Our Energy team will follow the progress of the project and publish relevant newsflashes as the project progresses. Should any questions arise, do not hesitate to be in touch with the contact lawyers listed in this article. We are happy to discuss and give further insight into the matter.