Renewables authorisation process must be streamlined

Environmental law, policy formulation and Regulatory Inflictions.
Conference to be hosted on 5-6 May ,2011 at Southern Sun Grayston Hotel in Sandton ,Johannesburg.
With the government committed to procuring renewable energy, the race is on for developers keen to take advantage of the renewable energy feed-in tariff set by the National Energy Regulator of SA (NERSA), writes Cullinan &Associates. However, renewable energy developers require a suite of environmental and land use authorisations from several different government departments in all three spheres of government to build and operate their facilities. Regulatory obstacles include the fact that municipal zoning schemes don’t provide specifically for renewable energy facilities and the fact that most facilities will be situated on agricultural land, the use of which is strictly controlled by the Minister of Agriculture. Most renewable energy facilities will require an environmental authorisation, a notoriously long process, not only for the facility itself but also for the connection infrastructure. The latter is usually the responsibility of Eskom and these processes must be co-ordinated. Environmental authorities, which regard renewable energy developments as Strategically Important Developments, are currently investigating ways in which the authorisation process can be streamlined. Here Section 24L of the National Environmental Management Act (Nema) is important. It allows authorities to issue ‘integrated authorisations’ where an activity is regulated by more than one law. In future, a single authorisation could be granted for a renewable energy facility which incorporates a water use licence, environmental authorisation, heritage approval and a waste management licence, as well as other approvals. In practice, issuing integrated authorisations will require a high level of intergovernmental cooperation but the streamlining of the authorisation process is critical to the development of a renewable energy industry in SA.
Cullinan &Associates.