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Brazil's federal environmental protection agency Ibama launched on Thursday an online, real-time system to monitor the licensing processes for electricity generation projects, Ibama said in a statement.
The system is part of a restructuring of the agency over the past two years that aims to reduce 25% the time taken to license new projects, the statement said.
Project sponsors will be able to use the internet to file documents and update the licensing process of their projects as well as follow the development of the process, an Ibama spokesperson told BNamericas.
"Employees from the licensing department will update the system any time the process moves ahead," the spokesperson said.
The new system should help meet the new nine-month legal deadline for licensing that the government is expected to announce on Monday (Apr.11). This is down from 12 months, Ibama said.
Ibama's own information technology personnel devised the new system, although it outsourced some of the web design, the spokesperson said.
The new online system is currently only available for power projects but by year-end it is expected to work for oil, gas, mining, railways, roads and ports projects.
The system meets the need for a more efficient licensing process and was at the top of lists of suggestions to improve the process compiled by industry players, among them the association of suppliers to basic industry (Abdid).
Environmental licensing problems and delays for new generation projects has raised concern that the country may not be able to add 3,000MW a year to its current 90,000MW installed capacity needed to meet growing power demand.
"Our studies show that licensing can take up to 20 months from the start," Abdid president Paulo Godoy said in a seminar on April 4.
In the past year Abdid and the environment and mines and energy ministries have set up workgroups to find ways to expedite the licensing process.
As many as 12,000MW in power projects are waiting for licenses before construction can start, according to an Abdib survey.
Last year the government short-listed 45 projects with total capacity of 5,039MW that already have concessions but could not start or complete construction because of licensing problems.
On top of that, Ibama and regional environmental protection agencies have yet to license most of the 17 projects with total capacity of 2,800MW whose concessions the government plans to tender this year.
Although Ibama has said that it has moved forward on some of the licensing, most of the delays are due to the lack of complete environmental impact studies (EIS) undertaken by companies, red tape in the 27 different state licensing entities and overlapping jurisdictions between municipal environmental protection agencies.
STREAMLINING THE PROCESS
Ibama recently fined Brazilian engineering consulting firm Engevix 10mn reais for submitting an allegedly faulty EIS, but companies claim that their EISs are generally well done and the main problem is with the decentralized licensing process.
Some companies want all the environmental licensing to be transferred to Ibama's purview.
"We need an integration of all the licensing authorities because now there is no understanding between them," the president of the association of power concessionaires (ABCE), Evandro Coura, said in the seminar.
Ibama agrees up to a point, and is in talks with state and municipal authorities to make the responsibilities of city, state and federal authorities clearer, Ibama said in the statement.