Government works to process renewable energy project applications

Friday, May 19, 2023

Government is processing applications for various projects to produce 9 789 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy, says Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister, Barbara Creecy.

“As our country faces severe load shedding, I am happy to share with you today that in our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) section there is a project pipeline of 9 789 megawatts for renewable energy applications,” Creecy said on Friday.

The Minister made the pronouncement during the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s 2023/24 Budget Vote in Parliament.

Renewable energy projects, according to Creecy, are made up of 2 899 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) and 6 890 for wind energy facilities.

In addition, many of these applications include battery energy storage systems, associated transmission, and distribution infrastructure.

“We are working hard to cut the red tape and get these projects finalised and in this regard, we have reduced our decision-making timeframes from 107 days to 57 days.”

Grid capacity, according to the Minister, is a major constraint to scaling up the energy transition.

“This is the view across the board with consensus from stakeholders, government, business, labour, and civil society. Grid capacity is a national priority to solve, not only for our transition needs but also for our short-term emergency to solve load shedding.”

The Minister told Members of Parliament (MPs) that her department has 15 EIA applications relating to transmission and distribution infrastructure, which they are also prioritising for decision-making.

At a briefing on Thursday, Eskom Acting CEO, Calib Cassim, announced that if a series of interventions to reduce power demands and improve reliability is unsuccessful this winter, load shedding could intensify to Stage 8.

Cassim said the State-owned entity is approaching the cold season with 3 000 MW less capacity compared to last year, due to units 1, 2 and 3 of Kusile Power Station and 1 unit of Koeberg Nuclear Power Station being currently offline.

“Honourable Members, in recent times, concern has been expressed that as we battle load shedding, we are considering delays in decommissioning ageing coal-fired power stations. Government is clear that we must battle both load shedding and climate change. It is not a one or the other decision,” said Creecy. 

She said current modelling would advise how government balances the decommissioning schedule to achieve energy security within the context of climate change commitments and air quality improvement.

Climate change

Citing the Sixth-Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, she said it confirms that the world has already warmed at an unprecedented rate.

Meanwhile, Creecy said Africa is experiencing widespread losses and damage due to climate change.

“Our country’s mitigation and adaptation architecture are at an advanced stage. We have developed sectoral emission targets that outline emission reduction goals for key sectors of the economy. We are now engaging line departments to determine the fair allocations of targets.”

In addition, the department is also developing carbon budget regulations to address the submission and processing of climate change mitigation plans to be submitted by the industry.

In addition to assisting 44 district municipalities to develop climate change plans, the department is also working with the nine provinces to review their existing plans to align with the draft Climate Change Bill that Parliament is currently finalising.

South African Weather Service (SAWS)

In addition, she said the South African Weather Service (SAWS) is in the process of automating and modernising its observations infrastructure.

This includes upgrades to mitigate the effect load shedding is having on data collection processes. 

“Increased collection and accuracy of data will ensure we can warn the public of extreme weather events in good time, saving lives and livelihoods,” she said. –