The central pillar for constructing a power station for harnessing hydropower, wind, or geothermal heat is the Master Plan, the environmental impact assessment, and the municipality land plan. Next is the power station license from the National Electricity Regulatory Authority (Orkustofnun), and last is a construction permit from the municipalities. Assuming all goes as planned per current law and regulation, this process will take at least twelve years, i.e., from when plans for a new power station are submitted for recommendation in the Master Plan until the power station commences operations.
Consequently, three full election periods run during a power station's preparation and construction phase. Meanwhile, three new governments and three new councils may have come and gone. This mustn't mean the process has to start from the beginning three times, with the encompassing delay. Unfortunately, we have experienced countless delays recently, the administration organisation has been slower, and inquiries take increasingly longer to process. Even clear deadlines, governed by law, are vastly exceeded.
Hvammsvirkjun Power Station and the wind farm Búrfellslundur are a case in point. Plans for Hvammsvirkjun Power Station were first submitted to the Master Plan in 1999, or 24 years ago. The plans have now been through the submission process three times and have always been put in the power utilisation category by project management teams and professional groups.
The environmental impact assessment was issued by the minister in 2004. However, an invitation to tender for machinery for Hvammsvirkjun Power Station was almost complete when the economic collapse occurred, and plans for Alcoa expansion were canceled, leading to lower electricity demand. Furthermore, when the economy started to recover, reviving the Hvammsvirkjun Power Station's licensing process was impossible, as the government postponed issuing the license. At the same time, further research on the environmental impact of the planned hydropower station on salmon in the river Þjórsá was conducted. The findings were that it would be justifiable to put Hvammsvirkjun Power Station in the energy utilisation category again, which was done in 2015. Thus, the licensing process began again. The hydropower station was already in the municipalities’ land use plans, but a new environmental impact assessment had to be conducted for some parts of the licensing application. The process has mainly been to plan. However, it is mentionable that the National Planning Agency (Skipulagsstofnun) added an extra four months before issuing the environmental impact assessment, and the National Energy Agency, which usually takes four months to issue a power station license, for some reason took more than 18 months. Furthermore, Landsvirkjun is still waiting for the last licenses needed, which, once issued, will make it possible to start constructing the power station, with an estimated construction time of three years. Hopefully, Hvammsvirkjun Power Station will commence operations before three decades have passed since plans were first submitted to the Master Plan.
Búrfellslundur Wind Farm was submitted for evaluation to the Master Plan in 2013, or ten years ago. At the same time, an application for a license to research the area at Búrfellslundur was submitted. Landsvirkjun started conducting an environmental assessment to save time and shorten the preparation phase. However, the Parliament did not pass the Master Plan for five years, and as a result, a conclusion was not delivered in 2017 but in 2022. Then, Búrfellslundur Wind Farm was put in the energy utilisation category. It was hoped that planning matters would be concluded quickly, but delays have resulted from a dispute between municipalities and the government regarding the revenue split. A power station license or a construction license for a power station can not be issued until the power station has been confirmed in the municipality land use plans. This delay means the construction plans will be on hold for twelve months. Hopefully, the spades of the windmill farm will be churning before the year-end of 2026.