Calls to speed up licensing process

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The National Association of Portuguese Municipalities (ANMP) has called for the licensing process for wind farms to be speeded up. Bureaucratic delays are the main barrier facing renewable energy development in Portugal, it says, noting that for projects completed in 2002 it took around six years for them to progress from initial permit applications to becoming fully operational. Appeasing environmental concerns appears to be the main obstacle, with the public consultation process alone sometimes lasting more than two years, often due to opposition to construction of grid expansion and transmission projects required to connect planned plant to the grid networks. ANMP has appointed a specialist on environmental issues, Carlos Pimenta, to come up with possible solutions to the problem. Pimenta says the vast potential for projects in the windy region of Bragança has so far been unexploited due to a lack of transmission. The region could become self-sufficient in wind generated electricity -- a feat already achieved by two other regions in the country, Alto Minho and Caramulo, which supply electricity to more than 300,000 homes. The situation will improve when transmission upgrades are completed, expected to be by 2009. "Bragança could then receive EUR 150 million of investments, become self-sufficient and even become an electricity exporter," Pimenta says. Furthermore, he is confident that with improvements to the grid network and licensing system, Portugal will achieve its goal for 40% of energy demand to be met by renewable energy by 2010/2011. The Portuguese Association of Renewable Energies estimates that by 2010-12, wind power could supply 10,600 GWh of electricity in Portugal from an around 4500-5000 MW of installed capacity. This includes 1600 MW awaiting final permits and expected online by 2008 and a further 1700 MW due to be awarded in a government tender shortly.

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