By Christoph Steitz
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Aquila Capital, one of Europe's top private renewables investors, has warned that a painfully slow permit system for wind and solar projects is choking off investment and threatens the continent's push to reduce dependence on Russian gas.
"We can and want to invest more. This is not a question of capital or the will to do so. It is simply a question of the fact that we are stuck," said Roman Rosslenbroich, Aquila Capital's co-founder and CEO.
"We are talking about billions that our industry cannot invest because of this."
Aquila Capital manages nearly 14 billion euros ($15 billion) in assets and has realised 13 gigawatts (GW) of installed renewable capacity, with a further 9 GW in development and under construction in Europe.
"We have ambitious expansion targets, but we are simply not making any progress. Permits don't come at all, or only much too late," Rosslenbroich said. "It's a disaster because as an investor and project developer you can hardly plan anymore."
Renewables are big part of Europe's efforts to achieve energy autonomy and expansion efforts have been increased to cut reliance on Russian gas supplies in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Getting the permits fast enough has been a problem across Europe, most notably in its biggest economy Germany, which aims for a 80% share of renewables in its power mix by 2030.
This will require annual onshore wind installations of 9-10 GW a year by 2028, a target industry association BDEW said cannot be reached based on current legislation.
Rosslenbroich said one way to accelerate lengthy processes was to set up a centralised authority in charge of dealing swiftly with applications and making decisions fast to make sure project timelines are shortened.
"It simply takes too long."
($1 = 0.9257 euros)
(Reporting by Christoph Steitz. Editing by Jane Merriman)