The South African government has launched a public consultation to exempt some solar and battery storage facilities from environmental approval during the permitting process, but only for sites classified as “low” or “medium” environmental sensitivity.
Negotiations opened on April 17 and will remain open for 30 days thereafter. The public is invited to submit written comments or feedback within the deadline.
The government proposes that newly built or expanded solar energy and storage projects with “low” or “medium” environmental sensitivity would be exempted from environmental approval during the permitting process. It has developed a national web-based environmental screening tool to identify the environmental sensitivity of geographical locations or sites. This tool classifies the environmental sensitivities of sites as “very high”, “high”, “medium” or “low”. Environmental themes include plant species, animal species, land biodiversity, water diversity and agriculture.
Unless certified by sensitivity, exempt solar and storage projects in South Africa must comply with a site-specific environmental management program and must be registered with the competent authority prior to development or expansion.
“The purpose of the proposed exclusions is to improve the efficiency of the environmental assessment process,” South Africa’s ministry said in a statement. “Furthermore, these exemptions are intended to simplify the deployment of solar and battery storage facilities, accelerate the production of electricity from renewable energy sources, facilitate the distribution of this generation capacity, and help address the current electricity shortages currently experienced by the country.”
South Africa has implemented a variety of measures to promote renewable energy sources and address serious load issues. It introduced a rebate scheme for rooftop electricity earlier this year to promote renewable energy sources and to solve, for example, its severe load-causing problems.