GE ENERGY, a supplier of power generation technology, was keeping an eye on emerging opportunities in renewable energy, hydrocarbons and nuclear in southern Africa, Jay Wileman, its president and CEO, said on Friday.

SA's budding renewable energy industry and the looming nuclear fleet programme, shale gas potential in the Karoo, natural gas discoveries in Mozambique, and coal-bed methane potential in Botswana make southern Africa an attractive destination for companies such as GE Energy. Coal-bed methane is natural gas extracted from coal beds.

Mr Wileman said GE was watching the developing renewable energy industry in SA. "We are looking at some of the wind projects. There are exciting capabilities. But we are not only considering wind projects. We will look at solar as well," he said.

He said GE Energy intended to forge ties with local partners that would see it involved in the life cycle of local projects beyond its traditional role as an equipment supplier. "We need to go beyond that."

Solar and wind technologies have the biggest share of the 3725MW that the South African government has set aside for independent power producer (IPP) projects in the IPP procurement programme.

The Department of Energy will soon announce the preferred projects for the second "window" of the bidding programme. Last year it allocated 1415MW out of the 3725MW mainly to wind and solar projects. A total of 2209MW will be allocated in future "windows".

GE Energy is watching developments in other African countries. These include Mozambique, which has seen natural gas discoveries. In Botswana, coal-bed methane is emerging as a potential alternative fuel for power generation and transport. SA is mulling over the potential of shale gas.

"There are a lot of opportunities," Mr Wileman said. GE Energy had developed shale gas expertise in North America and Brazil. "We are ready to bring that to SA," he said.

GE Energy's parent company, the US energy conglomerate General Electric, and natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy earlier this year announced plans to develop new infrastructure to accelerate the adoption of natural gas as a transportation fuel in the US.

The New York Stock Exchange-listed Chesapeake was one of the companies keen on potential shale gas resources in the Karoo.

njobenis@bdfm.co.za