The National Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has embarked on a process of identifying ways to act swiftly, streamline and shorten the environmental authorisation process for major infrastructure build programmes in South Africa. In particular the DEA is looking to facilitate the efficient roll out of Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) lead by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Committee (PICC) and detailed in the National Infrastructure Plan.
As part of this process, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), mandated by Ministers and Members of the Executive Council (MinMec), commissioned the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in January 2014 to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) linked to SIP 10: Electricity Transmission and Distribution for all. The CSIR has partnered with Eskom and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) to deliver on project outputs.
The aim of the SEA is to identify suitable routing corridors that will enable the efficient and effective expansion of key strategic transmission infrastructure designed to satisfy national transmission requirements up to the 2040 planning horizon.
Upon gazetting of the corridors, it is envisaged that the environmental authorisation process for transmission infrastructure will be integrated in specific areas identified through the SEA process as being less sensitive to the negative impacts of electricity grid infrastructure development. This should incentivise Eskom and other potential transmission infrastructure developers to plan and develop in the least sensitive areas.
The SEA process also provides a platform for coordination between the various authorities responsible for issuing authorisations, permits or consents and thereby will further contribute to a more integrated environmental authorisation process.