The Department of Environmental Affairs has recently published EIA Guidelines for Renewable Energy Project (“the Guidelines”) for comment by 8 October 2014. The Guidelines seek to facilitate project planning, financing, permitting and implementation for both developers and regulators in the renewable energy sector in light of the Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme (“REIPPP”).

The Guidelines were developed in an attempt to combat the permitting barriers arising from a lack of co-ordination between the various authorities and a lack of clarity on the permitting requirements for renewable energy projects. The Guidelines have been informed by the three rounds of the renewable energy projects that have already (with the exception of round 3) been concluded. Publishing these Guidelines at this late stage in the process has resulted in the Guidelines being of little assistance to developers and regulators that have been involved in this sector through the previous rounds of the REIPPP.

The Guidelines are comprised of 4 parts. Part A reviews the relevant technologies associated with wind, biomass and waste, waves and ocean current, solar and small scale hydro projects and cross references the relevant authorisations, legislation and policies required for each of these technologies listed in Part B. Part B contains a brief summary of the relevant legislation. This is likely to be outdated shortly if the proposed amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations and listed activities are promulgated. Part C sets out each of the stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities. Part D sets out the National Environmental Management Act, Environmental Authorisation approval process. These parts unfortunately, however, merely set out the process and requirements that are currently implemented in environmental approval applications and do not provide any other suggestions to reduce the barriers to obtaining these consents. The Guidelines do provide a list of the relevant consents which may be applicable in respect of each type of technology which can be used a useful checklist when an applicant decides to undertake a renewable energy project.

It is unfortunate that these Guidelines were not published prior to the commencement of the REIPPP as they would have been useful to practitioners, regulators and developers alike at that stage. It is also unfortunate that they do not provide developers with any abbreviated or consolidated approaches to submitting applications that facilitate the application process in respect of projects that are expected to reduce South Africa’s reliance on coal based energy.

Comments in respect of the Guidelines must be submitted to The Director-General: Department of Environmental Affairs, Attention: Mr Siyabonga Zondi at szondi@environment.gov.za or fax 012 399 9000.