The Department of Energy (DoE) is working at accelerating the electrification programme in the OR Tambo district municipality, which is one of the most challenging areas in the Eastern Cape region in terms of dealing with the current electrification backlog.
This was announced by Energy Minister Dipuo Peters at the launch of an R8-million Integrated Energy Centre (IeC), in Qunu, Eastern Cape.
Funds are being provided to the OR Tambo district municipality to undertake electrification in State-owned power utility Eskom’s area of supply, benefiting the Ntabankulu, Mhlontlo, and Ngquza Hill local municipalities. In the 2011/12 financial year, this approach will also be implemented at the Nyandeni local municipality, she said.
In the Qunu area, 300 electricity connections were completed in December last year and a further 300 households were connected at the end of January.
There is a backlog of 179 318 houses without electricity, with a 1% growth in households. The challenge for the department will be to ensure that sufficient funding is allocated in the following years so that universal access to electricity is achieved by 2014, Peters explained.
The Qunu IeC was made possible by South African petrochemicals group Sasol and the DoE. Peters believes that the facility, and the local enterprises it could support, will create the necessary jobs in the area.
“The Qunu IeC is a catalyst for heightened economic activity in the area. Sasol will only be satisfied once the IeC becomes an economic hub, creating employment opportunities, ensuring access to affordable energy, as well as providing a platform for small business development. “It is essential to note that the Qunu IeC has huge potential for sustainability,” said Sasol Oil chairperson and Sasol group executive Maurice Radebe, who spoke at the opening of the facility.
The IeC programme, which is a public– private partnership, was developed by the DoE to tackle energy poverty through deliberate interventions in South Africa’s second economy.
An IeC is a community information hub and a one-stop energy shop owned and operated by the community cooperative and organised as a community project. It provides energy solu- tions to communities, access to affordable safe and sustainable energy services, information and awareness on how to handle and use energy sources, such as paraffin and liquefied petroleum gas.
Energy products are supplied directly from the depots to the IeC, thereby eliminating the middleman. The centre also involves the development of small, medium-sized and microenterprises through partnerships with key stakeholders, such as the National Development Agency and the Department of Trade and Industry.
“Each IeC is linked with the Integrated Development Plans of the municipalities, which are implemented through the Inte- grated Sustainable Rural Devel-opment Programme, thus integrating the provision of wider energy choices with other projects, such as water supply, income generating projects and the building of schools and clinics.
“The IeCs will establish a village vendor network of at least eight to ten people to serve as delivery points in the communities so that people can purchase energy products, instead of travelling to the IeC. The village vendors will be trained [on] how to use the energy sources safely and are expected [to] train the local people. This will be carried out in partnership with the Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa and the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of Southern Africa,” said Peters.
Since the inception of the programme a few years ago, six IeCs have been established. These are the Kgalagadi and Moshaweng IeCs in Kuruman, the Northern Cape; Eshane, in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN); Caba Mdeni, in Matatiele, the Eastern Cape; Mutale, in Thohoyandou, Limpopo; and Ratlou, in Ma-kgobistad, North West province.
Other new IeCs are at different stages of development, with the national oil company PetroSA and energy and petrochemicals group Shell joining the ranks of Sasol and petroleum and oil company Total South Africa as partners.
Since 2004, the IeCs sponsored by Sasol have sold more than 1,8-million litres of oil a year. Added to of this, the poten- tial for the success of the Qunu IeC can be highlighted by the performance of the Caba Meni IeC, which created over 125 jobs through initiatives implemented around the facility. In Moshawa-neng, the IeC was used by a number of grade 12 students to study for their matric examinations.
“As we are all aware, energy is one of the cornerstones and basic commodities that drive sustainable economic growth and development and we sincerely hope that our contribution will serve as a vehicle to unleash the untapped potential of the rural and disadvantaged communities in the areas [where] we have built IeCs,” said Radebe.
To date, Sasol has invested R20-million in the IeC programme and is currently in the process of finalising the environmental-impact assessment for two new IeCs in KZN.