By Peroshni Govender
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Green energy is cheap in the long run and clean compared to "dirty" coal and costly nuclear power, a senior German energy official said on the sidelines of a Cape Town conference, at a time when South Africa plans to expand atomic power generation.
President Jacob Zuma's government is developing an energy mix that will boost power generation in Africa's most advanced economy which has been hit by electricity shortages and reduce its reliance on mostly coal generated energy.
"If you want to have expensive electricity you buy nuclear generators, if you want dirty electricity you burn coal," Rainer Baake, state secretary for energy in the economy ministry, told Reuters, when asked what advice he would have for South Africa which is working on increasing electricity production.
"If you want clean energy in the long run that will be cheaper, you transfer to a renewable system, but the decision has to be made by your own government," he said on Monday on the sidelines of a renewable energy conference in Cape Town.
"Every country has to make it own decisions. You don't want to be determined by politicians from other countries, make an assessment and do what is best for you."
Renewable energy already amounts to over 25 percent of Germany's national electricity mix, driven by the political desire to move to a low-carbon economy.
South Africa's government has said that it plans to procure at least 9,600 megawatts (MW) of atomic power which analysts have estimated would cost at least $100 million, making it the nation's most expensive procurement.
China, France, Russia, the United States and South Korea, as well as Japan and Canada, have all expressed interest in the project and have signed or are close to signing cooperation deals with South Africa on trade and technology exchange.
The first 1,000 megawatts of the nuclear build programs is expected to come online in eight years time.
South Africa, which is battling with power shortages, plans to build a solar park in its Northern Cape province to produce an additional 1,500 MW. The government has previously announced a series of renewable energy projects that would add over 1,000 MW of power to the constrained grid.
(Editing by James Macharia and David Evans)