Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Mayors and councilors,
Representatives of United Nations agencies,
Representatives of the private sector,
Good afternoon to you all.
We meet in Groutville, a town that is home to one of the most outstanding leaders of our country and continent, Chief Albert Luthuli.
This visionary, who was a president general of the African National Congress, was the first South African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
He left behind a rich political legacy and a collection of wisdom that we continue to draw from each day, as we work to build a better Africa and a better world.
The 17th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 17 is meeting at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre, named after this great South African hero.
It is befitting therefore, that we come to Groutville to pay our respects to his memory and legacy.
Last week, the family buried his son, Mr Sulenkosi Luthuli. We extend our deepest condolences to the family during this sad time.
Ladies and gentlemen,
One of South Africa`s major challenges for poverty eradication particularly in the rural communities is access to electricity.
People have to burn wood and coal to get some sort of energy which causes health-related problems such as pneumonia and asthma.
Further economic consequences include productive time consumed by collecting wood, and the costs of achieving energy security can be expensive.
Environmental consequences are equally concerning, with deforestation and local air pollution being the typical outcomes of reliance on natural and fossil fuels for energy.
We are working on solutions already.
Today we launch the pilot project to tackle energy access in rural areas which has been made possible through a partnership between the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), its implementing agency, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO).
They have been working with additional support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and their South African partners, the Departments of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
This approach complements the country`s move towards improving the energy efficiency of existing applications and ensuring that a greater proportion of the energy mix is comprised of renewable sources, as a sustainable and climate-friendly approach to energy security for all.
Nineteen (19) clinics in KwaZulu-Natal are being retrofitted with solar water heaters, which include the clinic here in Groutville, KwaDukuza Local Municipality, which is part of the iLembe District Municipality.
In addition to the installation of the solar water heaters at the clinic, solar water heaters have also been installed at the two primary schools, Dr Vilakazi Primary and Aldinville Primary as well as boundary lighting at Dr Vilakazi Primary.
A select number of households in close proximity to the clinic are also recipients of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.
Thanks to one of the project sponsors, these households have now received energy efficient cooking stoves together with solar powered torches, lanterns and energy efficient indoor lighting.
The impact of this intervention will be the reduced use of carbon-intensive electricity from the grid as well as reduced timber and coal for heating and cooking.
This will contribute to the scale up of greater use of solar-powered sources of energy.
This intervention will also address the health implications associated with the burning of timber and coal; the costs associated with buying electricity and coal; and the productivity losses in collecting timber for energy purposes.
We congratulate all partners in this important project.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have a second announcement to make here in Groutville.
At the COP17 talks last week, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Economic Development Department opened a pledge challenge to companies, trade unions and individuals to make a financial pledge to install solar water heaters on the rooftops of a number of houses in Groutville, home of Chief Albert Luthuli.
This is a tribute to his contribution to the country and the world, and also as a legacy of COP17 to the people of this province.
The response has been excellent. Companies, workers and even school children have made contributions. We have in 10 days raised money and matching grants for installing solar water heaters in 500 homes, which will bring hot water to more than 3 000 residents.
We thank all who contributed to this wonderful and innovative project.
More details will be made available tomorrow morning by the Minister of Economic Development at the COP17 venue in Durban.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today has been an important occasion.
We have launched a multi-lateral commitment to advancing integrated energy solutions to rural communities.
The interventions announced today will ease energy poverty while addressing the country`s development goals without compromising the environment.
The people of Groutville and surroundings will always remember COP 17 as the UN climate change conference that brought a difference to their lives in practical terms.
We will continue building on this path towards a sustainable, environmentally friendly future.
I thank you.