IPP signing blocked by late-night interdict

Coal ash disposals in South Africa. The country's power mix has long been dominated by coal

Court action by a South African trade union has blocked the signing of 2.2GW of renewables contracts, dashing hopes that today would mark the end of a years-long saga that has battered confidence in the country's clean energy programme.

The North Gauteng High Court, based in Pretoria, will hold a full hearing into the matter on March 27, Numsa said.

The South African government has faced a new obstacle to the planned signing of 27 delayed renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs), as local organisations have turned to the high court with a request for an urgent interdict.

Radebe's comments follow a decision by the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and non-governmental organisation Transform RSA's decision to approach the High Court in Pretoria.

After a delay of about two years newly appointed Energy minister Jeff Radebe last week announced that government and Eskom will sign 27 of the agreements pertaining to bid rounds 3.5 and 4 of the department of Energy's acclaimed Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Programme on Tuesday morning.

The Unions argue that Eskom now has sufficient generation capacity and that additional renewables would only force coal plants offline, with the loss of jobs.

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"The court found that our application meets the standard for urgency and therefore granted us the interdict", Numsa said in an emailed statement.

"The IPP roll-out will raise the cost of electricity dramatically, because IPP's cost much more than coal fired electricity", NUMSA said.

But Numsa disagrees. "The ANC government clearly wants to make the working class and the poor suffer even more than they do now", Numsa said. Extracting fossil fuels from underground is a "resource play".

It was not immediately clear how long that could take, or what the next move by the South African energy department will be as it attempts to put the issue to bed.

An urgent court interdict was granted overnight to temporarily prevent Eskom from signing a deal that unions believe will lead to job losses and an increase in electricity prices.

"The facts are clear: renewables already cost over 50% less than new coal-fired power, government policy has for years included the closure of coal-fired power stations, the associated job losses are being planned for through numerous processes now under way - most notably processes being undertaken by the national planning commission, electricity price increases are directly related to the extended delays and rising costs associated with Eskom's coal build programme".



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