Environment, Forestry and Fisheries publishes Geographical areas for development

31 Mar 2021

Geographical areas for the development of renewable energy development zones gazettes

The geographical zones identified as important for the expansion of South Africa’s energy mix have been published for implementation.

The Notices are part of the alignment of regulations required for the effective implementation of national environmental management legislation in terms of the One Environmental System.  They will also contribute to the expansion of the country’s alternative energy mix as the country works towards a reduction in the reliance on coal for energy.

The publication in the government gazette of the development corridors for strategic gas transmission pipeline infrastructure, and large scale wind and solar photovoltaic energy facilities follows an extended public consultation period on the proposed Renewable Energy Development Zones and improved Environmental Impact Assessment processes in 2020.

Amendments to the procedures to apply for, and for decisions on, Environmental Authorisations (EA) for the development of alternative energy initiatives in what is known as the Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZ) have also been published for implementation. The EA process has been shortened to allow for a smoother implementation of alternative energy growth in South Africa. Proactive site sensitivity work on the REDZ has been completed through two two-and-a-half year Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) processes. These determined the environmental sensitivity of each of the zones and corridors, and future renewable energy developments within identified zones in South Africa will require an environmental authorisation.

It is important to nnote that the Government Notice identifies and adds to, development corridors previously determined through three Strategic Environmental Assessments undertaken between 2016 and 2019.

All comments received during the extended period for public inputs in 2020 were taken into consideration when making the final decision on the corridors. With regard to the nature of the comments, several raised concerns about the contribution of greenhouse gas emissions to climate change and the risks of gas pipelines from a leakage and fire perspective.

South Africa has committed to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and is working towards a low emission, climate-resilient economy and society. The Presidential Climate Commission is advising government on a just transition that will leave no-one behind.  In terms of the Integrated Resource Plan, a portion of the country’s energy mix is to be generated from gas. Gas is recognised worldwide as an enabling fuel for a just transition. The issue of risks was considered and evaluated through the strategic environmental assessment that was undertaken to identify the transmission corridors.

To access the comments made, and the Department’s response to these, click on: http://egis.environment.gov.za – Geographical Areas; and https://www.environment.gov.za/legislation/gazetted notices

With regard to the effect of the identification of corridors for REDZ development on landowners, none will be affected at this time.  

Should a decision be made to develop a gas pipeline, for example, in one of the corridors in the future, the property owner will be approached regarding servitude access.  The landowner will have to have granted approval in principle, for the servitude across his/her property, prior to the submission of the application for environmental authorisation to the competent authority.

The landowner would, therefore, be fully aware of any such proposed development.

The expansion of energy supply within the pre-assessed strategic corridors will assist the country as it moves towards a low carbon and climate-resilient economy.

To access the government gazettes, click on:

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REDZ role in South Africa’s Just Energy Transition

Renewable Energy Development Zones (REDZ) have a key role to play in South Africa’s Just Energy Transition, creating priority areas for investment in the electricity grid and increasing South Africa’s green energy map, by enabling higher levels of renewable power penetration.

In particular, wind developers are investigating the potential for development in the eMalahleni REDZ, despite Mpumalanga not being known for high levels of wind, a challenge that can certainly be overcome with increased turbine hub height. 

As the wind industry embarks on a journey of localisation and local economic development, industry players believe that the region can be positioned as a component manufacturing hub, which will further entrench the positive impact on job creation by the wind industry. It is recognised that engagement with the relevant government stakeholders is critical.

“The new eMalahleni REDZ is a huge step toward accelerated economic development in Mpumalanga. As we move to implement the requirements of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019, it would appear natural that a portion of the 1600MW per annum should be allocated to the northern region of the country and research has dispelled the myth that wind is not an economically viable option in this region,” said Mercia Grimbeek, Head of Project Development for Enertrag, in South Africa and Chair of the South African Wind Energy Association.

“Through the implementation of national and even regional auctions the area could receive the economic stimulus that it needs and reduce the almost complete reliance on mining generated income to drive and support the economy. Renewable energy such as wind power plants is deployed fairly quickly when compared to other large infrastructure projects. This allows for the economic benefits to flow through to communities in a relatively short period of time not only directly through job creation but also indirectly through manufacturing and supply chain management,” added Grimbeek.

Due to the large number of energy-intensive users, in and around eMalahleni, it is seen as an ideal location to promote private off-taker agreements for the purchase of energy from Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

The deployment of wind energy, backed by a regulatory regime that supports private Power Purchase Agreements, has the ability to provide economic stimulus within a short timeframe.

Hence, the development of the eMalahleni REDZ could be viewed as a perfect partnership between Government and IPPs, further enabling a Just Energy Transition for the benefit of the communities of Mpumalanga.                                                                                         

Wind energy production is an excellent vehicle for direct infrastructure investment and a positive multiplier of economic effects on industries such as construction, procurement, engineering, and logistics.

It is believed that with the provision of a consistent regulatory framework that supports a focused project delivery pipeline, the renewable energy industry would have the opportunity to expand the manufacturing value chain in this REDZ.

“A stable and consistent project pipeline will support manufacturing of components locally, with the added benefit of skills development and training for the local communities.  One cannot ignore that the introduction of renewable energy would require a significant amount of skills transfer and human capital investment, so we believe that by expanding into eMalahleni, local communities will be empowered and less reliant on a single industry to provide economic certainty,” concluded Grimbeek.

REDZ are geographical areas where wind and solar PV development can occur in concentrated zones, creating priority areas for investment in the electricity grid and thereby increasing South Africa’s green energy map by enabling higher levels of renewable power penetration.

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