S.Africa okays $5.4 bln in clean energy projects
* To sign deals worth 47 bln rand on Nov. 5
* To expand green energy procurement by 3,200 MW
JOHANNESBURG Oct 29 (Reuters) - South Africa has given the green light to an initial $5.4 billion worth of clean energy projects that will allow it to procure 1,400 MW of electricity and help reduce reliance on coal-fired plants, the energy minister said on Monday.
The government has selected 28 wind and solar projects in the first stage of the programme, with the contracts expected to be signed on Nov. 5, E nergy Minister Dipuo Peters said.
"These bidders will be investing about 47 billion rand ($5.4 billion) in power generation and will create a number of jobs during construction and operation of these power plants," Peters said in a statement. The plants are due to be operational between 2014 and 2016.
Africa's largest economy depends on coal for 85 percent of its electricity supply of around 41,000 MW. Last year it launched a process to procure cleaner energy to reduce carbon emissions and bolster electricity supply.
A key producer of platinum, gold, iron ore and coal, South Africa has been struggling to meet fast-rising demand for power.
The process of adding more renewable power to the grid has dragged on for years and raised doubts about the government's ability to deliver on its plans.
It has also chosen another 19 renewable energy projects worth 1,043.9 MW in the second stage of the programme, which it hopes to finalise by late March next year. A third bidding round will close on May 7.
South Africa wants to use the green energy drive to boost job creation through manufacturing and requiring energy companies to source materials locally.
While the original procurement plan was to eventually add up to 3,725 MW of green energy to the national grid by 2016, the programme has recently been expanded to source an additional 3,200 MW of renewable power by 2020.
Apart from green energy, South Africa plans to procure more than 9,000 MW of new electricity produced from coal, gas, regional hydro and co-generation at industrial plants by 2025. Other plans include a tender for 9,600 MW worth of nuclear power. ($1 = 8.6517 South African rand) (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak)