The Law Decree No. 13, known as the ‘PNRR ter Decree’ (hereinafter the ‘Decree’), introducing several changes aimed at implementing the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) and the National Plan for Complementary Investments to the PNRR (PNC), was published in the national Official Gazette no. 47 of 24 February 2023.
Below are the main changes in renewable energy matters:
1. Single Authorization and opinion of the Ministry of culture
The Decree makes significant changes to the Single Authorization (AU) procedure set out under Article 12 of Legislative Decree no. 387/2003, as well as under Article 30 of Legislative Decree no. 77/2021, with the aim of simplifying the authorization process for renewable energy plants (in particular, for those located in areas subject to landscape protection and in the relevant neighbouring areas).
As a result of these changes:
- The issuance of the AU now also includes the Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) clearance, if necessary. Consequently, the maximum duration of the AU procedure has been changed from ninety to one hundred and fifty days. In addition, it is specified that with respect to the EIA procedures ongoing as of the date of entry into force of the Decree, the AU may be started even before the relevant EIA clearance;
- The participation of the Ministry of culture in the AU procedure is no longer required for projects located: (a) in areas subject to landscape protection pursuant to Legislative Decree No. 42/2004, if such projects require the EIA clearance; and (b) in areas neighbouring to those subject to landscape protection.
2. EIA application and Preliminary Verification of Archaeological Interest (Vpia)
The issuance of the EIA clearance is no longer subject to the prior obtainment of the Preliminary Verification of Archaeological Interest clearance. As a matter of fact, the Decree repealed letter g-ter of Article 23, paragraph 1, of the Environmental Code (Legislative Decree no. 152/2006), which included the Vpia clearance among the documents to be attached to the EIA application.
3. Reduction of the so-called buffer areas
The Decree provides for the extension of the so-called ‘ex-lege suitable areas’ for the instalment of renewable plants, set out in Article 20, paragraph 8 of the Legislative Decree no. 199/2021, through the reduction of those areas included in the buffer zone previously applicable to assets subject to landscape protection pursuant to Legislative Decree no. 42/2004. More specifically:
o as regards wind power plants, the buffer area is reduced from seven to three kilometres;
o as regards photovoltaic plants, the buffer area is reduced from one kilometre to five hundred meters.
4. Amendments to the Simplified Authorization Procedure (PAS)
The Decree introduces some changes with respect to the PAS permit obtained following the well-known silent-consent mechanism. Pursuant to the newly introduced paragraph 7-bis of Article 6 of Legislative Decree no. 28/2011, once the thirty-day term has expired, the applicant shall send a copy of the PAS application to the competent Region for its publication in the Regional Official Bulletin (BUR). Starting from the day of publication in the BUR, the applicable statutory term for challenging the PAS permit begins to run.
Furthermore, pursuant to the amended paragraph 2-quater, letter c), no. 3 of Article 1 of Law Decree no. 7/2002, the construction of electrochemical storage systems may be authorized by means of PAS, regardless of any occupation of new areas, if the same storage systems are operated together with renewable energy production plants.
5. Measures to promote Renewable Energy Communities ('RECs')
Until 31 December 2025, the local authorities in whose territories renewable energy plants financed by the resources of the PNRR are located, may grant concessions for the use of public areas for the instalment of energy plants required to meet the energy needs of the RECs. To this end, the local authorities will specify the areas for which the concession may be awarded, the minimum and maximum duration of the concession, and the concession fee amount.
6. Installation of plants without any authorization
The following plants may be installed without any authorization:
1.agro-photovoltaic plants, provided that:
- are located in agricultural areas that do not fall within protected areas or areas included in the Rete Natura 2000;
- are built by agricultural entrepreneurs or by joint venture companies together with electricity producers;
- the solar panels are installed two metres or more above the ground, without concrete foundations or foundations difficult to remove;
- the construction of photovoltaic systems provides for their effective compatibility and integration with agricultural activities also in view of the implementation of monitoring systems.
The above provision will be applicable once the suitable areas pursuant to Article 20, paragraph 1 of the Legislative Decree no. 199/2021 will be identified.
2. wind power plants up to 20 kW (so-called micro-wind plants) if located:
- outside protected areas or areas included in the Rete Natura 2000;
- in urban areas with high historical, artistic or environmental value, provided that the above-mentioned wind plants have a total power output of up to 20 kW and are tall no more than 5 metres;
With specific regard to the installation of micro-wind turbines in villas, gardens and parks of particular aesthetic value, the Decree provides that a prior authorisation must be obtained from the competent landscape authority. Such authorization, save for any possible prorogation, shall be issued within forty-five days from the date of the relevant application. If, within such term, the landscape authority does not communicate the reasons preventing the installation of the plant, the project shall be deemed to have been approved and the relevant authorisation to be validly issued.
3. ground-mounted photovoltaic plants (apparently without any power limit) as well as the related works and the necessary infrastructure, pursuant to the new Article 22-bis to the Legislative Decree No. 199/2021, provided that the said plants are located in areas:
- qualified as industrial, artisanal and commercial or in closed and restored landfills or landfill lots or quarries or portions of quarries that cannot be further exploited; and
- not subject to landscape constraints. On the contrary, if the area is subject to landscape constraints, the relevant project shall be previously submitted to the competent authority, that may reject the project within the following 30 days.
The actual scope and effectiveness of the simplification measures introduced by the Decree entered into force on 25 February 2023 will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Decree must be converted into law, under penalty of forfeiture, within 60 days from its publication, therefore the provisions included therein may be subject to amendments and further specifications.