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The South African Government and fuel company Sasol launched the R8 million Integrated Energy Centre (IEC) at former President Nelson Mandela's birth place earlier today. The centre will provide products such as aluminum paraffin, diesel, petrol, gas burner stoves as well as renewable energy solar system.
The launch forms part of a R20 million investment by Sasol to establish five integrated energy centres in poverty nodes identified by government as part of its Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Plan. Other centres have been launched in Limpopo, Northern Cape and North West.
The Qunu centre is a co-operative owned by members of the community representing about 18 villages, which are set to benefit from the project. In addition to normal products offered at service stations, the
IECs also offer services such as a library, information centre and a community room, all available for the community to utilise.
At least 50 short-term employment opportunities were created while more than 10 permanent employment opportunities are foreseen.
In addition, the centre has a village vendor network of people, mainly women and youth, who serve as delivery points within the communities. People can purchase energy products from these vendors to reduce travelling costs. The vendors are trained on how to use the energy sources safely and they, in turn, are expected to train local people.
Qunu, which is situated about 30km from the town of Mthatha, is one of the areas in the Eastern Cape where electricity has not reached every one. Locals still rely on traditional forms of energy such as paraffin and wood and had to travel long distances to access gas and other forms of energy.
Energy Minister Peters said the department has also embarked on a "special intervention" to try to accelerate the electrification programme in the area. The vision of the ministry was that the establishment of the IEC cooperatives will contribute towards job creation and community development. "The roll out of the IEC programme is one of the vehicles that the department has embarked upon to contribute to rural development and the fight against energy poverty," she said.
Sasol Oil LTD chair, Maurice Radebe, said the company has a long term goal of funding such centres in all the country's nine provinces. "Our plan is to penetrate every area that has been identified to be in need of this service and we are hoping the success we have seen in other existing centres will serve as encouragement to us and our partners," he said.
Additional information: Full story at BuaNews
News date: 14/01/2011