On April 8, 2015, the Ministry of Environment and Urban Affairs issued a circular clarifying the circumstances under which an EIA is required under its December 2014 regulation (the "EIA Regulation") for unlicensed solar farms (solar farms with an installed capacity of less than 1 MW) and mining project capacity increases.
Under the EIA Regulation, solar power plants with an installed capacity of less than 1 MW are exempt from preparing an EIA. To prevent abuse of the regulation, the circular clarifies that, if the same investor owns multiple unlicensed solar power plants on the same or adjacent (bitişik nizam) parcels of land, the total installed capacity must be considered. If the total installed capacity of the plants is 10 MW or less, the plants are collectively subject to an EIA evaluation; if the total installed capacity exceeds 10 MW, an EIA approval is required.
The circular also clarifies capacity increases in the mining industry, providing that (i) an increase in production, (ii) an increase in explosive use, or (iii) an expansion of an exploration license area, is a capacity increase subject to EIA assessment.
Impact of the changes
Multiple unlicensed solar power plants in the same area are now regarded as a single project for EIA purposes. This is significant as the construction of multiple unlicensed power plants on adjacent parcels is increasing. The change also highlights the contrasting approaches of the Ministry of Environment and the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA), which treats adjacent projects separately.
Previously, the EIA requirements for capacity increases were applied inconsistently. In some cases, for example, the local administration of the Ministry of Environment approved applications that only included the environmental impact of the capacity increase (without considering the entire project). These discrepancies have been eliminated.