South Africa: Water Use Licence applications for hydropower generation explained

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  • The Department of Water and Sanitation Director-General, Dr Sean Phillips, has reiterated that the department will solely be responsible for water use licence applications for hydropower generation, and will not be involved in Eskom processes or own any electricity production.

“We are not going to provide any financial support to the applicants during application, construction, operations and maintenance. The department will solely be responsible for water use licence applications and will ensure that the application processes are competitive, fair, transparent and underpinned by the spirit of equity allocation of water resources, in line with the National Water Act,” Phillips said.

Phillips, together with a team from the department’s Water Use Licence Applications (WULA), met with different stakeholders and Independent Power Producers (IPP) on Tuesday to take them through the processes of applying for authorisation to use available water courses, and the department’s water resources and infrastructure to generate hydropower as an alternative energy to supplement the current available electricity.

Addressing the hybrid briefing session, Phillips said the department had revised its hydropower policy to enable utilisation of its infrastructure and water resources for renewable energy generation.

He said the policy empowers the department to remain within its mandate while supporting the much-needed investment in renewable energy generation in the country.

“We have a duty as the department to ensure that the nation’s water resources are protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled, as stipulated in the National Water Act.

“The department has developed policy principles that will apply to all institutions – private or public – in the interest of balancing sustainable water resource protection, water and sanitation provision and hydropower generation,” Phillips said.

According to the policy, the department will support the development of hydropower as part of both social and economic development, within the context of water scarcity and water infrastructure challenges, without compromising the sustainable protection of water resources and water and sanitation service provision.

The department’s Water Use Licence Application Chief Director, Advocate Sipho Skosana, said there are three phases of the WULA application process.

“The first phase is a pre-application phase, which will open on 17 April 2023 and will end on 30 June 2023. The second phase will be the application compilation and submission, which will end on 31 January 2024. The third and final phase is application processing, decision and communication by the department,” Skosana explained.

He said the department will take a maximum period of 90 working days to process the applications, and once the decision has been made to grant a licence for hydropower generation, “the licence will last for a maximum of 40 years”.

“The conditions of a licence specify that the construction should start within the stipulated timeframe following the issuance of a licence. It should, however, be noted that all the applications should comply with the conditions of a licence to avoid the suspension and withdrawal of the licence, according to Section 54 of the National Water Act,” Skosana said.

Hydropower Independent Producer Programme

The department has initiated the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Hydropower Independent Producer Programme (DWS HIPP) in an effort to allow for the available infrastructure and water courses to be used to contribute to the power grid.

The programme is in response to the Energy Action Plan announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to enable the production of renewable energy as an alternative source of energy and contribute to tackling South Africa’s power crisis.

The types of hydropower technologies that can be applied for include Impoundment; river diversion or run-of-river; pumped storage and floating or kinetic turbines (small scale generating capacity). In addition, applications for floating solar panels can also be made.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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