Clean energy deal delayed

Numsa claims court victory but minister says two-week postponement voluntary

Energy Minister Jeff Radebe yesterday defended the government’s Independent Power Producer programmes despite a latenight court hearing. Radebe had planned to sign power purchase agreements and implementation agreements yesterday with 27 renewable energy independent power producers (IPPs).

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said earlier yesterday that together with Transform RSA it had been granted an interim interdict in the North Gauteng High Court on Monday night to prevent Eskom from concluding the IPP projects‚ including the power purchase agreements.

Radebe complained about “a mere one hour notice to the minister and Eskom as respondents” in the application brought to court. The matter was argued until after 11pm.

Radebe disputed the outcome‚ saying in a statement: “After arguments were concluded‚ the court refused to grant an interim interdict against Eskom or the minister but instead postponed the matter to 27 March 2018 . . .

“In the absence of an interdict‚ and with the court having expressly informed the parties at court that it would not grant such an order‚ nothing prevented Eskom and IPPs from signing the agreements as scheduled by me for Tuesday 13 March [yesterday].

“However‚ counsel for the minister informed the court that while there was no interdict granted‚ the signing will however be postponed until March 27 when the matter is finally disposed of in court.

“This undertaking was made voluntarily on behalf of the minister.”

Radebe said the plan was intended to bring about cost-efficient clean energy.

“This initiative will enable R56-billion of new investment in the economy over the next two to three years‚ which will immediately contribute to growth.

“The usage of different types of energy supply‚ which include renewable forms of power generation‚ is in line with the energy policy.

“These programmes will contribute towards competitive market pricing of electricity.”

Numsa said it joined the court application to protect the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their families.

“Numsa believes the signing of these contracts would be detrimental for the working class of Mpumalanga and the country as a whole.

“The signing of the IPP means Eskom will require less coal-fired electricity. This is likely to lead to the closure of the coal-fired power plants and . . . at least 30 000 working-class families will suffer because of job losses‚” it said.

“The IPP rollout will raise the cost of electricity dramatically – IPPs cost much more than coal-fired electricity.

“Eskom was planning to sign these agreements despite the fact that a previous application by the Coal Transporters Forum to interdict them from signing is pending at the North Gauteng High Court. They were attempting to impose this deal on us without consultation but we stopped them.”

The matter has been set down for March 27 at the North Gauteng High Court. “We are confident the court will recognise that our rights have been violated and will look favourably on our application‚” Numsa said.

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