Residents of the Imzizi Administrative Area in the Eastern Cape no longer have to travel 15km to buy paraffi or to refill their gas cylinders.
An Integrated Energy Centre (IeC) built in the area has brought energy sources to their doorsteps, making life easier for the community.
At the IeC, residents can buy safe and sustainable energy, while also getting information on how to use illuminating paraffin and liquefied petroleum gas.
Before the IeC was established residents had to travel to the town of Mbizana to buy these energy sources.
The centre is one of the Department of Energy’s projects aimed at providing energy solutions to rural areas that do not have electricity. The department started the IeC project in 2002 to promote access to clean and affordable energy services.
Nine IeCs have been built in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and North West. This was done in partnership with municipalities, development agencies and oil companies.
The Imzizi IeC is a partnership between the Mbizana Municipality, the department and state owned oil company PetroSA.The petrol station at the IeC is the first retail service station in the country under the PetroSA flag.
Construction of the Imzizi IeC cost about R12 million.
The centre consists of a convenience store, a car wash, tyre repair, petrol station, public phones and bank facilities.
Minister of Energy Dipuo Peters launched the centre in November 2012.
“A total of 61 jobs were created during the construction period and a further 10 permanent jobs to operate the business. There is no doubt that the car wash and other small, medium and micro enterprises will create additional job opportunities,” said Minister Peters.
Not only is the IeC a source of clean and reliable energy, it is also project for the people and will be run by the community.
Community members are not just consumers but have registered a community cooperative to run the business.
At the end of the financial year, a certain percentage of the profits from the IeC will ploughed back into the community’s trust fund. The cooperative is made up of 39 members, including 19 females and 20 males. Nine of the
39 are young people.
Minister Peters explained that the IeC site had a convenience shop, training centre and underground tanks to hold 23 000 litres unleaded petrol, 23 000 litres of diesel, 11 000 litres of lead replacement petrol and 11 000 litres of illuminating paraffin.
She urged the community to guard the centre against vandalism, theft and any form of abuse. “The cooperative should never forget that they remain accountable to the community as this service point has been created for the benefit of the local people,” the Minister pointed out.
The Eastern Cape has a backlog in electricity connections for houses of 437 874 and 20 333 of these are in Mbizana Local Municipality where Imzizi is situated.
“The municipality was allocated funds to ad- dress their network conditions. The allocation for the 2013/14 financial year will give us 1 334 new connections. This will not be done as the municipality is still busy with backlog of the 2011/12 projects,” Minister Peters said.
The department was in discussion with Eskom to make electricity available to municipalities that fall under the Eskom supply.