The Western Cape government seeks to make the region the "green economic hub" of South Africa, provincial premier Helen Zille said.
Opening the first Southern African Solar Energy Conference in Stellenbosch, she told delegates that the province aimed to draw at least a tenth of its power from renewable sources within two years.
"We intend by 2014 ... that at least 10% of electricity use in the province will be generated from renewable energy [sources]," Zille said.
"Solar energy will be central to the achievement of this aim."
Energy power plants
The plentiful sunshine in the provinces meant "we will see many solar energy power plants built in the Western Cape and an attendant manufacturing industry with upstream and downstream linkages".
Zille said by 2020 the energy system of the Western Cape would be highly efficient and [its] fossil fuel energy use greatly reduced.
She stressed the importance of partnerships with the private and academic sectors to achieve this. Migration into the region meant energy demand would rise sharply.
"The pace of urban migration... means that it's going to be impossible and completely unsustainable to continue policies of building everybody a new house," Zille said.
"We're going to have to take informal settlements, where they are, and upgrade people's shacks and put in the services... and ensure that people are going to be able to use the energy they require."
The cost of renewable energy schemes remained a challenge. However, over time, economies of scale would see the use of such energy move from marginal to mainstream use.
Zille said there were plans to turn the West Coast industrial town of Atlantis into "the heart of green economy manufacturing" in the province.
This would contribute greatly towards the creation of jobs and move the region closer to a carbon-free economy.
Commitment from government
The development of a feed-in tariff system was crucial for the establishment of renewable energy schemes.
Zille called for a specific commitment from government for a feed-in tariff system to encourage small-scale solar power generation.
The three-day solar energy conference has attracted experts from the academic and business sectors.
(Sapa, May 2012)