“How will the SEA process facilitate the efficient and effective expansion of strategic electricity grid infrastructure in South Africa?”
The SEA process is aimed at integrating environmental, economic and social factors to identify areas where electricity gird infrastructure expansion will have the lowest possible impact on the environment whilst yielding the highest possible social and economic development opportunities to the country. This process will ensure that future electricity grid infrastructure development in these areas is done sustainably.
The SEA process provides a platform for Eskom, government departments, private sector, and non-government institutions to provide input into where strategic transmission infrastructure should be prioritised and Corridors established. The intent is for agreement and commitment to be officiated through Cabinet approval and a gazetting process.
The cabinet approval and gazetting of the Corridors will allow for alignment of the three spheres of government (including National, Provincial and Local Government) by adopting the Corridors and its associated processes into future policies and spatial plans (e.g. Integrated Development Plans: IDPs and Spatial Development Framework: SDFs). This will in turn create an enabling environment which will allow for the streamlining of development processes in these areas. The development of all electricity grid infrastructure requiring environmental authorisation within the corridors will necessitate a Basic Assessment (BA) process.
The certainty resulting from the adoption of the corridors will allow Eskom to be more proactive when undertaking servitude negotiation with landowners and agree on land parcels and route options based on environmental sensitivity upfront. Gazetted corridors will also help Eskom to motivate for the necessary funding to build in these corridors. Furthermore, the gazetted corridors will provide confidence to the renewable energy industry of transmission infrastructure investment in these areas.
“What will incentivise Eskom to develop in the corridors rather than outside?”
The corridors represent areas where transmission infrastructure investment is required in order to balance South Africa’s future power supply and demand needs. Therefore Eskom need and want to build in these areas. The outcomes of the SEA will assist Eskom in developing in these areas by:
The high level agreement and commitment to the corridors will decrease the risk of not obtaining authorisation, should Eskom target areas for development that have been pre-assessed and classified as having lower levels of environmental sensitivity.
Eskom will be able to assess many risks upfront (including environmental, access to land and cost of land) prior to seeking authorisation for a specific route.
In addition to scoping level assessment of the corridors, interdepartmental and intergovernmental alignment will allow for streamlined authorisation processes. This will include obtaining the necessary authorisations for other permit requirements such as Water Use Licenses and Forest Clearing Permits. No, the SEA is not looking to replace the need for project level environmental authorisation.
“How many lines/infrastructure will be build in each of the corridors?”
The corridors can be considered the future transmission backbone of South Africa. Transmission level power lines already exist within each of the corridors. Where possible, existing lines will be upgraded to support additional capacity. It is difficult to comment on exactly how many new lines will be necessary in each corridors as the composition and geographical distribution of South Africa’s future generation footprint is still unclear. In most instances, no more than three or four new transmission level lines will be needed within each corridor over the course of the next 30 years. The upgrade and development of major transmission substations will also be necessary in each of the corridors.
Environmental authorisation in the Corridors
- “Will the EGI SEA replace the need for project level environmental authorisation within the corridors?”
The level of environmental assessment undertaken as part of the SEA is equivalent to the scoping phase of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in terms of National Environmental Management Act. The results are thus not sufficient for project level decision making in terms of NEMA, and further impact assessment is still necessary at a project level. With the scoping requirements being met inside of the corridors, all electricity grid infrastructure projects, and associated infrastructures, that require environmental authorisation will follow a streamlined project level environmental assessment process in the form of a Basic Assessment (BA). The scope of the project level BA process in corridors will be informed by the development protocols, and will be undertaken in accordance with the relevant regulations current at the time. The project level BA process will also include the associated project level public participation process.
- “How will integrated authorisation be accomplished?
The SEA process provides a platform for competent authorities and other permitting or commenting agencies to provide upfront requirements for development in the corridors. Consensus will be reached on how these requirements will be incorporated into the development protocol. If a proposed project complies with the development protocol’s requirements it would imply that all authorising and permitting authorities’ requirements have been met, and thus either a single or multiple authorisations and permits can be issue
Scope of the EGI SEA
“Is the EGI SEA only considering transmission infrastructure within the Corridors?”
The location of the preliminary corridors is based on the results of a detailed Eskom Strategic Grid Plan study to determine future transmission needs across South Africa in the context of balancing major power supply and demand requirements up to 2040. Therefore the final location of the corridors will be based on transmission level need only (rather that distribution level) and will facilitate the future transmission backbone of South Africa. However, any change in the environmental authorisation process within the Corridors, which may be brought about as a result of this assessment, will apply to both transmission and distribution level infrastructure.
“Why is there not a corridor connecting KwaZulu Natal to the interior?”
Currently the majority of power provided to the KZN is sourced from the coal generating areas in Mpumalanga. A large number of transmission lines are already in place which traverse the Drakensburg range and connect Mpumalanga with KZN. Over the course of the next 30 years it is expected that many of the coal power generating facilities in Mpumalanga will be decommissioned which will mean that no new transmission lines between Mpumalanga and KZN will be necessary. Instead, much of KZNs future power requirements will be sourced via the Eastern Corridor through a range of energy sources likely to include renewable, gas and nuclear.
Timeframe of the SEA
Completion of SEA
It is planned that the SEA process will be completed by end -2015.
Completion of Cabinet Approval and Gazetting Process
It is aimed for the cabinet approval and gazetting process to be completed by mid-2016