6 September 2013 – The local government of South Africa’s economic centre, Gauteng, says it will spend R11 billion on a large scale rollout of solar panels on all state-owned buildings across the province. Gauteng’s infrastructure development member of executive council (MEC) Qedani Mahlangu says, “We have quantified the available roof top space on government-owned buildings to be approximately eight million square meters. Our calculations indicate that a mass roll-out of solar panels on government roof tops will come at a cost of about R11.2 billion and lead to the generation of up to 300 MW of electricity.”

Mahlangu, whose department is central to infrastructure needs that overlap across all of the province’s departments, also says her department would take advantage by investing in the natural gas infrastructure. “Gauteng has the most developed natural gas infrastructure in South Africa. This constitutes a natural gas pipeline infrastructure connecting from the supply source in Mozambique, through Secunda to Babelegi.

“March 2014 will herald the end of Sasol’s natural gas monopoly and the start of a natural gas industry regulated by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).

“It is at the back of these developments that our ambitious plans for natural gas are rooted. Our first project is the replacement of the 77 coal-fired boilers in Gauteng hospitals with natural gas or diesel-fired boilers. Twenty-one boilers are planned for replacement this fiscal year and the balance over the next three years,” she says.

Mahlangu also says that her department had entered into a partnership with iGas to conduct a feasibility study on gas infrastructure required to supply natural gas to hospital boilers. “Our biggest showcase for the use of gas to meet hospital energy needs will be the tri-generation plant proposed for Chris Hani Baragwanath memorial hospital as a pilot project.

She says the same natural gas infrastructure had the potential to benefit about two million residents in Gauteng’s townships and suburbs, a market considered to be middle-class homes. “Through the infrastructure that runs past their areas, they could end up using natural gas reticulation for cooking and heating.”