In a first major concession to deregulate the electricity generation sector and remove red tape to allow for increased participation by independent power producers (IPPs), the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy has, thanks to DA pressure over the past few months, announced intentions to gazette measures for public comment in August to simplify the rollout of solar PV projects.
The DA’s call for a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom and the Electricity sector, which has been widely covered, specifically implored the national government to remove onerous environmental and other regulations that were slowing down the licensing process for IPPs.
In direct response to this call, Creecy explained that her Department’s lengthy Environmental Impact Assessment (EIAs) process for solar PV projects located in Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZ) and Strategic Infrastructure Projects will be reduced to shorter timeframes.
While the DA welcomes this announcement and looks forward to provide input once the regulations are gazetted for public input in August, we are of the strong view that more needs to be done to remove red tape across the entire electricity value chain. It is important that urgent steps are taken to:
- Waive local material content requirements and import tariffs on imported steel;
- Compel NERSA to conduct its regulatory approach within a disaster response frame to help lessen red tape and approve generation projects in shorter timelines;
- Facilitate the opening up of transmission and infrastructure investment to public-private partnerships in order to expedite the integration of upcoming planned generation capacity;
- Require that the Department of Energy provides full transparency on its internal standard operating procedure to ensure that the requests for Section 34 Determinations by municipalities are attended to in the shortest possible time; and
- Make it easy for Small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) to become a critical component of the overall electricity generation mix by through the provision of an incentive-driven tariff system for SSEGs that allows municipalities to compensate customers for excess electricity fed back onto their electricity grid.
Should President Cyril Ramaphosa remember to honor the commitment that he made two weeks ago and show leadership on the energy crisis, the aforementioned interventions should, at the bare minimum, form the basis of his energy crisis response measures.