Work underway to hasten registration of bigger solar PV projects, battery storage facilities

Friday, March 3, 2023

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment is in the process of hastening the applications related to authorisation permits and licenses required for energy generation, transmission and distribution, said Minister Barbara Creecy.

“I think it's important to say that solar rooftop installations don't require an environmental authorisation about bigger solar projects,” she said on Friday.

However, about bigger solar projects, she said the department is busy developing regulations that will allow solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities and battery storage facilities to go through an expedited registration process.

“We will be putting those regulations out for public comment soon and that, of course, would be an area of low environmental sensitivity.”

The Minister was speaking during a briefing chaired by the Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele to communicate gazetted regulations, which give effect to the National State of Disaster about the impact of severe electricity supply constraints.

This comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the ongoing load shedding as a National State of Disaster to enable government to deal with the crippling power cuts.

According to Creecy, the department will make provision for her to issue directions related to the streamlining of applications and decision-making processes for environmental authorisations, waste management licenses and atmospheric emission licenses.

“What we are currently doing is that we are looking at developing directions that would enable expedited procedural requirements for requiring environmental authorisation,” she explained.

“So for example, allowing a process to be followed that is similar to the current basic assessment process, even for activities that may otherwise require the full scoping Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process.”

The department is also looking at shorter periods between the submission of an application and the submission of reports for decision-making and public participation, for example, 14 days as opposed to the existing 30 days.

“I think it's important to say that the regulations do not provide for exemptions from environmental law,” she stressed.

“It’s not our intention to start producing blanket exemptions from those provisions. I think we recognise that there may be certain instances where this is required, and on a case-by-case basis.”

However, the department will be advised by its legal practitioners on how best to deal with the situation. –