The Department of Energy (DoE) and its renewable energy entity, Independent Power Producer (IPP) office have denied claims of the undersigning of the R56 billion power purchase agreements having been blocked through a court order. This comes amid the spokesperson of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa Ms Phakamile Hlubi-Majola having told the SABC’s current affairs show of AM Live that the Pretoria High Court had granted an urgent interdict in the union’s favour.
Amid all the confusion, with the court action having plunged Minister Radebe’s moment of glory into disarray, it was his Director General Thabani Zulu that had to address hordes of renewable energy stakeholders that had gathered at the IPP offices for the announcement.
In reading a statement on behalf of his political boss, Mr Zulu refuted claims that an interdict had been granted, saying the Pretoria High Court had “refused to grant an interim interdict against Eskom or the Minister but instead postponed the matter to 27 March 2018, with the responding parties to file their answering papers by 20 March and the applicants’ parties to file their replying papers by 22 March.
Mr Zulu asserted that the Minister had the legal basis to undersign the 27 power purchase agreements but desisted in doing so in the “spirit of constitutionalism and rule of law,” also adding that a new date shall be announced after the court date of the 27 March 2007.
In the face of the setback, the National Union of Metal Workers of South (NUMSA) and Transform RSA, had something to write home about and leading the charge in media space and easily claim kudos.
With renewable energy and its related technologies not merely dotting the living spaces our masses as a sight anew to them, but bearing a testament of environmental sustainability, energy security and a much needed capital injection into the nation’s coffers; NUMSA and Transform SA ventilated on the skepticism of the old.
From what got aired, the old cost factor Eskom squabble against renewables reemerged and also cast into the equation was the emotive issue of the citing of 30 000 job losses in the coal mining sector should the Minister have gone about in signing the 27 power purchase agreements worth R56 billion in foreign direct investment.
On her part, the head of the Energy Department’s Independent Power Producer office Karen Breytenbach said they have been procuring energy “at increasingly cost competitive rates.”
She also highlighted the nagging local content dilemma. “Our estimate is that for the solar PV projects, around 2.8 million solar modules would be procured, 600 inverters and 385 transformers. In addition for the onshore wind projects, roughly 500 wind towers and turbines would be required. South African manufactures stand to benefit from this huge demand opportunity.”
Leading up to the 27 March, a battle for media attention aimed at winning the hearts and minds of South Africans is set to unfold between the warring parties with the applicants likely to cite the permanency of jobs within the coal sector against what is most likely guaranteed five year construction related jobs in the renewable energy sector.
Cynicism aside, what ought to be noted from Minister Radebe’s posture is that South Africa and the Northern Cape are again preferred investment destination in the renewable energy sector. The province is set to continue basking in this industry’s glory. Tellingly, it is known for its mighty Vaal and Orange Rivers, winds that cast fresh air into its majestic open blue skies and its blazing sunlight that is a source of energy for varied sustenance.
South Africa’s most sparsely populated province is the home to most of the renewable power projects, leading in solar, being second highest with wind farms and set to be a front runner in the establishment of more hydroelectric plants.
The Northern Cape is hoping to be a future net producer of renewable energy for the rest of the country by 2020. This province prides itself with over 500MegaWatts of renewable energy being contributed to the national grid by IPPs against the holistic 950MWs countrywide. Foreign direct investment into South Africa’s renewable energy is at an estimated R200 billion which has also come with a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.