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Open for comment: Solar facilities to be exempt from requiring environmental authorisation

14 April 2023

On 14 April 2023, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment published her intention to exclude the development and expansion of solar photovoltaic facilities from the requirement to obtain environmental authorisation. The proposed exclusion also applies to any activity or infrastructure associated with the development of such solar facilities.

See the notice calling for comment on the proposed exclusion here.

Written submissions are due before 14 May 2023.

According to the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s media statement on the notice, the exclusion will apply when the facilities are developed in areas confirmed to be of “low” or “medium” environmental sensitivity and will be subject to a site sensitivity verification, compliance to a site-specific environmental management programme and a registration process.

This is in line with the sector’s ongoing efforts to simplify the environmental legislative impact assessment framework for energy projects whilst ensuring that environmental protection is not compromised.

The intention of the proposed exclusions is aimed at improving the efficiency of the environmental assessment process. In addition, these exclusions intend to simplify the deployment of solar PV and battery storage facilities, to expedite the generation of electricity from renewable energy resources, facilitate the distribution of this generation capacity and contribute to addressing the existing electricity shortages currently being experienced by the country.

See the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment’s media release at