Title page for ETD etd-03292011-201613

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Broughton, Elena Konstantinovna
Email elena@urban-econ.com
URN etd-03292011-201613
Document Title A framework for coherent decision-making in environmental impact assessments in the energy sector of South Africa
Degree MSc
Department Technology Management
Advisor Name Title
Dr L Haywood Co-Supervisor
Prof A C Brent Supervisor
  • energy sector
  • pairwise comparison
  • South Africa
  • multi-criteria decision analysis
  • direct weighting
  • multi criteria analysis
  • multi criteria decision framework
  • decision-making processes direct weighting
  • environmental impact assessment
Date 2011-04-19
Availability unrestricted
The current decision-making processes involved in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) in South Africa suffer from a lack of coherence and do not include evaluation of trade-offs between qualitative and quantitative impacts, as well as environmental, economic, and social dimensions. In addition, insufficient capacity and knowledge among authorities, a lack of objectivity among Environmental Assessment Practitioners (EAPs), and mediocre reports add to the problems associated with effective decision-making. This work presents a framework aimed at improving the effectiveness and objectivity of the decision-making process applied in South Africa’s EIAs in the energy sector.

A number of decision-making models and tools are available to researchers and practitioners throughout the world that could potentially be applied in EIAs. Among these are Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA), Rapid Impact Assessment Matrix (RIAM), and Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA). Each of the tools has its own advantages and disadvantages. With respect to the CBA, its biggest disadvantage is the fact that it requires conversion into monetary terms of all impacts, which is sometimes difficult to achieve. The RIAM, on the other hand, fails to provide a systematic approach to the ranking of alternatives. Both of these issues are addressed by the MCA tools. The MCA framework, furthermore, is universal, transparent, easy to replicate, and does not require a particularly large amount of labour and financial resources to complete. It is, however, subjective, but this shortcoming can be overcome by making the decision process more transparent.

The framework proposed in this research paper is based on the Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA) technique that allows the identification of the proposed development's cumulative impact versus the current status of the environment. It then compares possible alternatives, where available, in order to identify the most optimal solution. The proposed solution takes into account the trade-offs between the different impact metrics.

The research methodology followed in this paper comprised four steps, namely:

  • Selection of case studies,
  • Information collection,
  • Framework application and testing and
  • Feedback.

The development of the framework followed an eight-step approach that is generic for MCA and was tested on two case studies that have already gone through the Environmental Impact Assessment process, i.e. the Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) plant in the Western Cape and the Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plant in the Northern Cape. The former was evaluated against the "no-go option", but included a decision tree comprised of impact areas, categories of impacts and dimensions (environmental, social, and economic). The latter included alternatives for four components of the project, but the decision tree comprised only of categories and dimensions.

The effectiveness of the framework was verified by testing the results of the case studies against the recommendations proposed in the respective Environmental Impact Reports. In all cases, but one, the results of the framework correlated with the recommendations made by the Environmental Assessment Practitioners in the respective studies. In addition, a workshop with the decision-makers was held to obtain their viewpoints regarding the usefulness of the framework in their decision-making environment. These decision-makers supported the use of the framework in their environment as it offered an integrated and transparent approach to the evaluation of projects and alternatives. They emphasised, however, that the decision-making process was complex and the application of the framework alone would not be able to address all the challenges.

The case studies demonstrated that the proposed framework could be successfully applied in the process of undertaking impact assessments in the energy sector. It can be used to determine the trade-offs between impacts and dimensions, while taking into consideration the opinions of specialists and decision-makers when assigning weights. The framework has the ability to clearly illustrate the benefit of introducing mitigation measures and it also indicates an alternative that produces the optimal cumulative impact.

In conclusion, the work presented contributes to the new body of knowledge in the field of Environmental Impact Assessment in the energy sector as it will assist authorities in making objective and informed decisions, while ensuring greater transparency in the process. It also opens opportunities for conducting follow-on investigations, such the application of the framework in other sectors of the economy, undertaking a sensitivity analysis to compare the range of scores used in the evaluation of impacts, and investigating the possibility of acquiring input from Interested and Affected Parties (I&APs) and integrating those into the framework.

© 2011 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Broughton, EK 2011, A framework for coherent decision-making in environmental impact assessments in the energy sector of South Africa, MSc dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-03292011-201613/ >


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