Energy|Environment|Gas|Power|PROJECT|Projects|Renewable Energy|Screening|Solar|Power Generation|Environmental|Infrastructure
Energy|Environment|Gas|Power|PROJECT|Projects|Renewable Energy|Screening|Solar|Power Generation|Environmental|Infrastructure

Creecy announces EIA exemption for solar PV projects in low-, medium-risk areas

21st July 2022

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Deputy Editor Online


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To get more energy generation capacity on line quicker, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) will implement exemptions from environmental-impact assessment (EIA) requirements for certain energy projects.

The department has earmarked solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation and certain transmission infrastructure for these exemptions, as it typically poses little risk to the surrounding environment.

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy in a July 21 briefing conceded that the EIA approval process used to take up to 300 days, and, even with the department implementing various efficiencies, that has only reduced down to an average 176 days currently, which is still excessive and poses an impediment to projects reaching closure.

Some of the department’s initiatives have included identifying and gazetting 11 Renewable Energy Development Zones, five electricity transmission corridors and gas corridors, in which the environmental authorisation timeframes have been halved.

Still, the DFFE deemed it necessary and helpful in resolving the country’s energy crisis to include exclusions from the need to obtain an environmental authorisation – in low and medium sensitivity areas, as classified by the department’s Web-based screening tool.

The screening tool identifies areas of very high, high, medium and low environmental sensitivity for a number of environmental themes; the Minister intends to adopt the screening tool as an environmental management instrument.

The notices in this regard will be gazetted for public comment in August.

Creecy believes this intervention will speed up the environmental approval element for solar PV projects to within 60 days and, thereby, simplify the deployment of solar PV facilities.

The exempted projects will, however, still be subject to a registration process to allow for compliance monitoring.

The DFFE explains that, although no public participation process will be applicable to these projects, as no environmental authorisation is required, notification of the registrations will be gazetted to enable access to the registration decisions and to facilitate the possibility to submit appeals should a person wish to do so.

The DFFE will confirm what information will be required for registration soon, but it will include a biodiversity and plant specialist or environmental assessment practitioner (EAP) visiting the site, as well as developers using the department’s screening tool to generate a report on the project area in question.

The EAP will prepare a site sensitivity verification report to ensure compliance with the allowable development limits.

The DFFE has begun work on preparing a generic environmental management programme for solar PV projects in low or medium environmental sensitivity areas.

Creecy confirmed that further work would be undertaken to consider ways of simplifying the EIA process for wind energy projects, without compromising the protection of birds and bats.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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