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Good news for solar in South Africa

South Africa is making positive moves to overcome the decade-long power crisis, says the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) – even if it’s happening really slowly.

Following five weeks of persistent load shedding, power utility Eskom managed to return enough capacity to the national grid to suspend rolling blackouts over the past weekend.

While the end of load shedding – for now – has been welcomed, the country awaits word from president Cyril Ramaphosa on a special package of interventions to tackle the country’s power crisis.

Addressing the inaugural Black Industrialists and Exporters Conference in Sandton on Wednesday (20 July), the president said that he was engaged in consultations with social partners on measures to take on the crisis, and would “soon be able to announce a package of measures that provides an effective response” to it.

“Disappointingly, nothing was forthcoming from president Cyril Ramaphosa on accelerated steps to ease the power crisis,” the BER said. “However, with consultations between the government and the other social partners apparently continuing, there could still be an announcement this week.”

In his February State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa pledged to provide a comprehensive social compact on the power crisis – in cooperation with business, labour unions and civil society – within 100 days.

While the government has held talks with its social partners since February about agreeing to a compact, the process has been “slow and at times it has been quite difficult,” he said in an address to members of the governing African National Congress in KwaZulu-Natal province on Sunday.

The plan is being finalized and will be announced “soon,” the president said again

Despite the lack of news coming from the office of the president, the BER noted that positive actions are being taken.

“Environment, Forestry and Fisheries minister Barbara Creecy said she intends to publish revised regulations for public comment that will accelerate the environmental approval process for independent power producers,” the group said.

“If implemented, this could go some way to reducing the time it takes for these projects to get off the ground.”

Creecy on Thursday (21 July) announced her intention to gazette two documents for public comment in August that would make it easier for solar PV projects to be launched, specifically targeting the lengthy environmental impact assessment process required.

The department said that it has identified special renewable energy development zones, where impact assessment times could be almost halved – from 300 days to 176 days. The department wants to reduce these times even further, Creecy said.

It also wants to cut processing times for strategic infrastructure projects to 57 days.

To do this, the department plans to launch a new web-based screening tool to give prospective projects access to more information and detailed data on environmental sensitivity. Using the tool as a basis for project applications, will allow some solar PV projects to skip environmental authorisation or otherwise reduce processing times from 300 to 60 days.

Source: Business Tech

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