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South Africa ready to sign deals with first renewables projects

South Africa has finally given the green light to an initial $5.4bn worth of renewable energy projects that will allow it to procure 1.4GW of electricity and help reduce its reliance on coal-fired plants, says the country's energy minister.

After months of delays, the Department of Energy says contracts will be signed on 5 and 6 November for the 28 wind and solar projects selected almost a year ago in the first round of South Africa's renewables programme.

The plants are due to be operational between 2014 and 2016.

Africa's largest economy depends on coal for 85% of its current power base of around 41GW.

South Africa has been struggling to meet a fast-rising demand for power. Bidding for alternative energy projects should add an additional 3.2GW to the national grid by 2020.

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) welcomed the government’s announcements on the timing to finalise the country’s first renewables projects, and of additional power allocations to the renewable energy programme.

“The SAWEA is relieved to hear that the government has announced its financial close dates and its protocol,” says SAWEA chairperson Jasandra Nyker. “This signals an important step in the history of the development of the renewable energy sector.

“Even with the delays, financial close within 12 months for 28 projects is a very impressive achievement and the government should be applauded for its commitment to the programme,” adds Nyker.