US must speed permits to spur renewable energy growth, execs say

US must speed permits to spur renewable energy growth, execs say
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Solar panels are set up in the solar farm at the University of California, Merced, in Merced, California, U.S. August 17, 2022. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino/File Photo

By Liz Hampton

HOUSTON (Reuters) -The U.S. government needs to streamline permitting for renewable energy projects, including development of power transmission infrastructure and grid connectivity, to support needed growth, executives said on Thursday at a conference in Houston.

“It’s a tremendous issue,” said NRG interim CEO Larry Coben, pointing to difficulties around interconnection, the rules that new electricity generators must follow to connect to the grid.

It can take up to four years to move a project through the interconnection process, according to the American Clean Power Association.

Coben lamented that it is much harder to move through permitting processes in places like California than in Texas.

States with fewer regulatory restrictions are going to be the big winners in attracting renewable investment and growth, said Andrés Gluski, CEO of utility firm AES (NYSE:) Corporation.

Hurdles around permitting have been discussed frequently among executives attending the annual CERAWeek energy conference in Houston Texas. Earlier in the week, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin told participants that permitting reform “will get done.”

Former U.S. climate envoy John Kerry on Thursday agreed the need is critical for clean energy development.

“We’ve got to break the gridlock of permitting. We cannot take five or 10 years to be able to deploy the things we need to do,” to meet climate goals.

The call for faster permitting comes as renewable deployment is forecast to grow by as much as 17% to 42 gigawatts this year, representing about a quarter of electricity generation, consultancy Deloitte said in a report, citing U.S. government figures.

“We’ve got to get infrastructure built, transmission lines built. We’ve got to work through these kind of political forums that are being used to stonewall and stop progress,” said Chris Womack, chief executive at utility firm Southern Company (NYSE:).

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