The South African government is proposing to exempt solar and battery storage projects from obtaining environmental authorization during the permitting process under certain circumstances. The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, has launched a public consultation on the intention to exclude the requirement of ecological approvals for solar-plus-storage facilities.
The proposed exclusions will be applied for these clean energy projects developed in areas having “low” or “medium” environmental sensitivity. Subject to a sensitivity verification process, the projects must be compliant with a site-specific environment management program and be registered with the competent authority before their construction or expansion.
The government has developed the “National Web Based Environment Screening Tool” to classify the environmental sensitivities of different locations as “very high,” “high,” “medium,” or “low.” Environmental themes such as flora, fauna, terrestrial and ecological diversity, agriculture, etc., are taken into consideration for this classification scheme.
The invitation for the consultation to exclude the solar-plus-storage projects from environmental authorization was launched last month and is open until May 17. Members of the public will have to submit their comments or inputs within this deadline to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment.
According to Barbara Creecy, the SA Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment, the proposal is in line with the energy sector’s ongoing efforts to unravel the environmental legislative impact assessment framework for clean energy projects. It also ensures that these projects do not compromise environmental protection.
The proposed exclusion aims to reduce the complexity of deploying solar PV and storage facilities by improving the efficiency of the environmental assessment process. This will enable the government to expedite renewable energy generation, distribute the generation capacity, and further address the existing power shortage that has crippled the country’s energy market.