How can we take inspiration from abroad? Both Germany and the Netherlands have already shortened the time limits for large constructions to 1 month and for smaller constructions to 5 working days, with the proviso that appeals have no suspensive effect.
In Germany, the law on accelerating the use of liquefied natural gas (Gesetz zur Beschleunigung des Einsatzes verflüssigten Erdgases) passed through the legislative process in less than a month. The bill was published on 10 May 2022, debated in the Bundestag on 12 May 2022 and approved on 19 May 2022. The Federal Council also approved it the following day. It entered into force on 1 June 2022.
The aim of the law is to build German LNG terminals as quickly as possible to reduce dependence on Russian gas. The law provides stakeholders with tools to shorten the entire approval process. It takes into account the so-called special interest in the case of projects of particular urgency to ensure the security of gas supply to Germany. It stresses, among other things, that ‘for reasons of overriding public interest and public security, it is necessary to implement them as quickly as possible’. These provisions of the law are important in order to simplify the decisions of the licensing authorities and the courts in the event of challenges to such licences by opponents of such projects.
The exemption from environmental impact assessment is also essential. Licensing authorities cannot invoke the Environmental Assessment Act ‘where it is likely that the expedited approval of the project will contribute significantly to overcoming or averting a gas supply crisis’. Before issuing a licensing decision, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection must inform the European Commission of the reasons for not applying the Environmental Impact Assessment Act and provide it with information made available to the public.
How would such a practice help the situation in the Czech Republic? The Czech Republic could use a similar tool to, for example, accelerate the integration of biogas plants as an additional source of gas for domestic consumption.
A typical biogas plant with a capacity of 1.2 MW would be able to supply about 3 million m3 of biomethane to the gas grid, which is about 1/1000 of the LNG terminal capacity (3 billion m3) that the Czech Republic has reserved (and is already drawing) in the Netherlands. According to expert estimates, the existing biogas plants can already produce about 5-10% of the annual gas demand in the Czech Republic. At the European level, about 10% is being discussed. In the case of building more and using different types of biomass, it is claimed that 1/9 to 1/5 of the Czech gas consumption can be replaced in this way.
Unfortunately, due to the inflexibility of the building authorities, the biogas already produced today with a low efficiency of 40% is burned in combustion engines (cogeneration units) to produce electricity, which is abundant or the Czech Republic is surplus in it. A possible future is shown by Denmark, where biogas currently accounts for 40% of the methane in the pipeline network and 72% is planned.
The biogas plants have a ready-made gas distribution system and no modifications are needed.
For strategic constructions important for national security, there must be a fast-track procedure and permitting at ministerial level, or some kind of expert group to assess the construction in priority time from all points of view (including environmental protection).