Norway working on new plans to speed up wind projects after framework scheme fails: minister

FILE PHOTO: A windmill stands next to the ocean in Utsira, a North Sea island, in this photo taken April 22, 2008. REUTERS/Wojciech Moskwa/File Photo

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway is working on a new licensing system to speed up the construction of onshore wind farms after a public backlash forced it to abandon a previous plan to develop the sector, Energy Minister Kjell-Boerge Freiberg said on Tuesday.

Last month the government shelved a wind power framework proposed by the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), casting uncertainty on applications for new wind farms amid an existing moratorium on licenses.

The NVE stopped approving new wind power projects in April after a raft of protests to give the government time to work on a new framework for developments.

The now-discarded scheme proposed new wind farms in 13 designated areas, but faced fierce opposition from some utilities and the municipalities affected as well as the general public.

“The idea was to reduce conflict, but seeing all the input it did not reduce conflict,” the minister told a conference. “But still the work we have done has not been in vain.”

“We want to develop a licensing system. We will be shortening this (building) period,” he added.

When asked by Reuters on the sidelines, he declined to elaborate on when the new licensing system would be ready, adding that work for its introduction was ongoing.

A ministry spokesman later said that onshore wind farms currently take too long to build even after they are licensed, resulting in operators often asking to amend the size of the projects.

The new licensing system will be aimed at addressing that, he said.

Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Editing by Terje Solsvik and Jan Harvey