South Africa mulls waiving ecological approval for some PV, storage projects

solar PV and battery storage
PV plant in South Africa
Image: Scatec Solar

South Africa’s Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment has launched a public consultation to exempt solar-plus-storage facilities from needing environmental approval during the permitting process.

The consultation was opened on April 17 and is open for 30 days thereafter.  Members of the public are invited to submit written comments or input within the deadline.

The government is proposing to exempt newly built or expansion solar-plus-storage projects in “low” or “medium” environmental sensitivity areas from environmental approval during the permitting process. It has developed the National Web Based Environmental Screening Tool to identify environmental sensitivities of geographical locations or sites. This tool classifies sites’ environmental sensitivities as “very high,” “high,” “medium,” or “low.” The environmental themes considered are plant species, animal species, terrestrial biodiversity, aquatic biodiversity, and agriculture.

Subject to sensitivity verification, the exempted solar-plus-storage projects in South Africa must comply with a site-specific environmental management program and be registered with the competent authority before development or expansion.

“The intention of the proposed exclusions is aimed at improving the efficiency of the environmental assessment process,” the South African Ministry said in a statement. “In addition, these exclusions intend to simplify the deployment of solar PV and battery storage facilities, to expedite the generation of electricity from renewable energy resources, facilitate the distribution of this generation capacity and contribute to addressing the existing electricity shortages currently being experienced by the country.”

South Africa has been rolling out various measures to promote renewables and address its severe load-shedding problems. It introduced a rebate scheme for rooftop PV earlier this year to promote renewables and address its severe load-shedding problems, for example.

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