2021 was an important year for clean energy in North America. The U.S. Congress unveiled the American Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as part of President Biden’s plan to decarbonize the economy by 2035. The bill includes more than $30 billion to fund clean energy projects. Meanwhile, Canada committed nearly $1 billion to accelerate the spread of renewable energy and grid modernization.
Government funding for clean energy infrastructure is a critical step on the path toward meeting carbon emissions reduction goals. The next step is just as important: implementing enough renewable energy generation projects in time to curb rising greenhouse gas levels.
World leaders are pushing for a swift transition to clean energy to stave off the worst effects of climate change. But it is local governments that must see clean energy infrastructure projects through—and quickly. Unfortunately, many cities, counties, states, and provinces are struggling with antiquated land use permitting processes that can’t meet the urgency of the moment.
Land Management Software, which is permit software specifically designed to support an efficient land use permitting process, can aid local government officials in accelerating the clean energy transition by addressing key roadblocks to permitting critical clean energy projects. Online systems enable government officials to evaluate and monitor permitting efficiency in real time with digital reports and dashboards, while reducing redundancies and rote data entry for their staff. Collaboration between stakeholders is also easier and less frustrating, since all information is easily accessible online. Plus, multiple steps in the permit issuance process can be completed simultaneously, which further reduces wait times. These improvements are especially important for streamlining the lengthy timelines associated with land use permits - most critically for time-sensitive renewable energy projects.
Clean power generated by renewables like wind, solar, and water is still relatively new and often requires extensive site evaluation and public input. Land Management Software that is efficient, easy to use, comprehensive, and highly customizable can shave months or years off the time it takes to get from permit application to approval. The right software can address delays common to all paper-based and semi-manual land use permitting processes, as well as the unique challenges typical of building clean energy infrastructure.
All permitting processes can be slow and arduous, but none more so than clean energy projects, which represent relatively uncharted waters for government regulatory bodies and developers. Stakeholders have to field reviews, contingencies, public input, and litigation. Land-use permits often exceed stated timelines, and delays equate to higher resource, staffing, and transactional costs for applicants and permitting agencies.
Clean infrastructure permitting can trigger further delays, as officials and the public negotiate large siting requirements associated with renewable power production and the uncertainty of innovative technology. The following are three key reasons for clean energy permitting delays:
1. Large scale land requirements.
Solar, wind, water, and many other types of renewables must be deployed across large areas to maximize their energy output. According to one study, replacing the U.S.’s non-renewable energy resources with renewables would require a landmass about 1.6 times the size of Delaware.
The sheer size of each project can trigger more complicated permitting processes and reviews. Permitting for larger projects is often more nuanced, requiring additional permits and engagement with several agencies, each with their own rules and regulations.
2. Unfamiliar technology.
Though modern solar and wind technologies have been around for decades, they are still evolving rapidly. While that’s good news from an energy productivity standpoint, it’s not ideal from an implementation point of view.
In many places, permitting requirements for these newer technologies are unknown, unclear, or even nonexistent. The lack of standardized knowledge and processes around renewables contributes to longer timelines as government officials seek information and input to approve projects.
3. Public skepticism.
While many residents look favorably toward renewable energy, some are less keen to see a row of windmills or solar panels through their windows. In fact, the term NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) originated in the 1970’s in opposition to nuclear power, which is still an important source of renewable energy today.
Unfamiliar technologies can fuel public skepticism and risk aversion, leading to critique and opposition during the permitting process that compounds delays.
The process of getting a clean energy project off the ground is daunting to say the least, with numerous permits to obtain and stakeholders to involve. Permits required, depending on the type of project, might include a land use permit, building permit, work permit, or environmental permit - all of which pose roadblocks in the absence of permitting technology.
To knock down roadblocks and overcome implementation setbacks, as explained in A Framework for Building Efficient Environmental Permitting Processes, there are several permitting process improvements that could reduce inefficiencies without sacrificing the effectiveness of clean energy projects and infrastructure. These include changes to regulation, tailoring to the local context, project and organizational characteristics, and the application process itself.
Within the application process, there are several factors to consider, including the requirements for application development, submission, and review. Permit Software leveraged for land management is a major factor in streamlining each of these critical phases of a project.
For example, permit software can aggregate the various reviews associated with a large scale land use project in one place, copying over relevant information and standardizing the review process across each required permit.
Permit software that is widely used across regions and countries can be set up to provide optimal support for innovative, lesser-known technologies such as renewables. Some permitting software can also be easily customized as regulation and technology evolve.
And when it comes to gathering public support for renewable infrastructure projects, permitting software can categorize and share the relevant data and input in a timely manner. Doing so allows government officials to respond to feedback more quickly, and keep a finger on the pulse of public sentiment regarding high-profile projects.
Efficient permitting processes and software enable local governments to move quicker on clean energy opportunities. The result is swifter progress toward climate goals, stronger economies, and, ultimately, a more livable planet.
Interested to learn more about permit software and how it could support your permitting programs? Check out this permit software buyers guide detailing all you need to know.