Cape Town - Energy Minister Dipuo Peters on Thursday reiterated government's commitment to nuclear and renewable energy as part of the integrated resources plan (IRP).
"As I indicated recently, the nuclear transaction needs to be commenced well in time so that we can commission the power by 2023," she told the National Assembly during debate on her budget vote.
The recent events at Fukushima-Daichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan had made it necessary for South Africa to carefully take stock of the implications of these developments on its nuclear power programme, as outlined in the IRP, she said.
It was therefore prudent and responsible that the relevant interventions by other countries in such situations be monitored.
This could include increasing the safety requirements of the nuclear technology, selecting the sites for the power stations in areas that were less susceptible to seismic activity, as well as putting in place dedicated institutional mechanisms for dealing with nuclear safeguards.
"We are not lost to the need for a rigorous awareness building exercise regarding nuclear power and its pros and cons, so that our communities are better informed about not only the risks, but the benefits as well," she said.
The accident at Fukushima had happened at a time that made it possible for South Africa to factor the appropriate lessons into the design of its nuclear power programme, and to take advantage of experiences from other countries.
"We are constantly getting updates from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other sources regarding the lessons learned from Fukushima.
"We are still convinced that nuclear power is a necessary part of our strategy that seeks to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions through a diversified portfolio, comprising some fossil-based, renewable and energy efficiency technologies."
Turning to renewable energy, Peters said: "We have finally arrived at a point where we are ready to procure the first clean energy projects, indicated under the integrated resource plan."
It was hoped to conclude at least 1000MW of renewable energy transactions by December this year, in time for showcasing as South Africa hosted COP 17 (The 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Durban.
Apart from the showcasing, the programme was aligned to the New Growth Path and would substantially contribute to job creation.
"Secondly, the procurement of solar photovoltaic (PV), concentrating solar power, biomass and other technologies will take into consideration the legal requirements relating to public sector procurement, in terms of which procurement is required to be open, fair, transparent, cost effective and competitive," she said.
Following the successful Solar Park International Investors Conference held in October last year, the department had committed R18.6m towards the completion of a comprehensive feasibility study by July this year.
"We are very excited that South Africa can begin to seriously explore the possibility of solar technologies, being deployed as part of our broader energy mix, in a way that will also de-carbonise our energy.
"It is our intention to place South Africa in the top quartile of solar power generation, so that we can simultaneously create green jobs by localising the manufacturing, installation, operations and maintenance," she said.
The Solar Water Heating (SWH) programme had to date delivered over 115 000 systems under the fiscal and rebate funding schemes.
This was a significant increase from the zero base started from, when the programme was first announced in 2009, Peters said.
The IRP lays the foundation for the country's energy mix up to 2030.
It provides for a diversified energy mix comprising coal (14%), nuclear (22.6%), open cycle gas turbine (9.2%), closed cycle gas turbine (5.6%), and renewable energy carriers including hydro (6.1%), wind (19.7%), concentrated solar power (2.4%), and PV (19.7%).