The Northern Cape is ready to become South Africa's renewable energy hub through the construction of large solar and wind power stations, Premier Sylvia Lucas said on Friday.
Speaking during the State of the Province Address, the premier said the Provincial Renewable Energy Strategy had been developed to unlock existing potential and to position the province to attract both local and foreign investment.
"In terms of the strategy, we [will become] a net producer of renewable energy to the rest of the country by 2020.
"The planned solar corridor stretching between ZF Mgcawu and the Pixley ka Seme regions, and the solar-themed special economic zone (SEZ) to the station in //Khara Hais Municipality is a manifestation of this," Premier Lucas said.
The fast growing renewable energy and green economy sector in the province concentrates, in the main, on solar energy and is expected to attract massive investments.
The Renewable Energy Independent Producers Procurement Programme, directed by the Department of Energy, has so far approved 31 projects for the province.
The programme aims to harness South Africa's high level of renewable energy potential. It currently has in place a target of 10 000 GWh of renewable energy. The Minister of Energy has determined that 3 725 megawatts, to be generated from renewable energy sources, is required to ensure the continued uninterrupted supply of electricity.
The Northern Cape's projects will result in the creation of over 6 502 jobs during the construction phase and a further 8 736 permanent jobs.
Expected direct investment amounts to R26.4 billion, which is the lion's share at 78% of total investment for the bidding phase of the renewable energy programme.
Agriculture, rural development
In conjunction with the developments in renewable energy, Premier Lucas said her provincial government viewed agricultural development as a key strategic intervention in the growth of the rural economy.
She said just over R80.5 million had been allocated in the 2013 financial year and will benefit 4 500 smallholder and black commercial farmers.
Ilima Letsema has been allocated R70 million, with a special emphasis on assisting farmers to increase production by providing them with inputs, as well as the revitalisation of the Vaalharts irrigation scheme.
Premier Lucas said following the success of the Riemvasmaak project, the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme has been rolled out to five more sites across all districts in the province.
Communities have benefitted in terms of construction of infrastructure, including roads, clinics, electrification and schools; and business enterprise development and general skills transfer.
A few months after President Jacob Zuma launched the Fetsa Tlala programme, which is aimed at promoting food security, Premier Lucas said the coordination and implementation of the initiative had resulted in the establishment of eight community and 138 household gardens.
She said a positive outcome of the initiative was that farmers in John Taolo Gaetsewe were already selling their produce to Shoprite and Pick 'n Pay supermarkets.
The provincial government identified and supported 17 smallholder farmers to plant approximately 1 000 hectares of maize.
The aim of this project is to support smallholder farmers to produce staple food crops as part of the national food security intervention programme in response to rising food prices.
Meanwhile, the De Aar Logistics Hub will be developed into a major materials supply depot to serve as a supply and storage facility for Transnet for the rails and sleepers required during the upgrading of the railway line from Kimberley through De Aar to Ngqura.
"In partnership with Transnet and Emthanjeni Municipality, we will launch the youth precinct initiative and the Wagon Maintenance Depot in De Aar in March this year," Lucas said.