Row rages over re­new­able energy

Move to clean energy is a global phe­nom­e­non and ‘more jobs will be created in so­lar and wind power than will be lost in min­ing sec­tor’

Afro Voice (Free State) - - FRONT PAGE - THELMA NGOMA

AT­TEMPTS by the Na­tional Union of Me­tal­work­ers of SA (Numsa) and Trans­form RSA to block the coun­try’s re­new­able energy pro­gramme is un­likely to suc­ceed.

The union and the lobby group took to the courts late on Mon­day to stop Energy Min­is­ter Jeff Radebe from sign­ing off 27 re­new­able energy deals that are part of the govern­ment’s plan to move the coun­try from coal-fired power to re­new­able energy.

The mat­ter was sched­uled for a full hear­ing on March 27 amid fears of mas­sive job losses.

“We are con­fi­dent that the court will recog­nise that our rights have been vi­o­lated,” Numsa said.

But Green­peace said the move was meant to sab­o­tage re­new­able energy in favour of coal.

An energy ex­pert said job losses were in­evitable but the num­ber of jobs that will be created through re­new­able energy ex­ceed the num­ber of (min­ing) jobs that will be lost.

Min­is­ter of Energy Jeff Radebe, against whom the court ac­tion was di­rected, said 61 000 jobs would be created through the 27 IPPs be­ing signed.

RE­NEW­ABLE energy lob­by­ists were dealt an­other blow when the lon­gawaited sign­ing of 24 in­de­pen­dent power pur­chase agree­ments was de­railed by a late-night court ap­pli­ca­tion on Mon­day night.

The North Gaut­eng High Court agreed to hold a full hear­ing on the mat­ter on March 27 af­ter union Numsa and Trans­form RSA, a group which has lob­bied for for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in the past, ar­gued the deals would lead to coal-sec­tor job losses.

The state power util­ity, Eskom, was due to sign 27 mostly wind power and so­lar deals, with in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers (IPPs) in the first ma­jor in­vest­ment deal since Cyril Ramaphosa be­came Pres­i­dent last month.

“we are con­fi­dent the court will recog­nise our rights have been vi­o­lated,” Numsa said. Trans­form RSA did not an­swer calls for com­ment.

But Green­peace’s Happy Kham­bule said the move was meant to sab­o­tage re­new­able energy in favour of coal.

“This stands in the way of progress. The re­al­ity is that re­new­able energy cre­ates new, sus­tain­able op­por­tu­ni­ties that will grow the green econ­omy and en­able a just tran­si­tion away from coal.”

Energy ex­pert Chris Yel­land said the move to re­new­able energy was a global phe­nom­e­non.

“Job losses are in­evitable but the num­ber of jobs that will be created through re­new­able energy ex­ceed the num­ber of (min­ing) jobs lost.”

The South African Re­new­able Energy Coun­cil said yes­ter­day it wants an ur­gent res­o­lu­tion to the is­sue “be­cause re­new­able energy in­de­pen­dent power pro­ducer pro­cure­ment will cre­ate more jobs, not fewer”.

The Min­is­ter of Energy, Jeff Radebe, against whom the court ac­tion was di­rected, said that although the court had not in fact granted an in­ter­dict to stop the sign­ings, they would be post- poned un­til af­ter the court rul­ing on March 27.

He said 61 000 jobs would be created through the 27 IPPs be­ing signed.

The SA Wind As­so­ci­a­tion said yes­ter­day the sign­ing was meant to mark the reawak­en­ing of the coun­try’s IPP pro­cure­ment, which was first ini­ti­ated in 2011.

The projects were de­layed for two years as the Zuma govern­ment pur­sued a $100bn (R1 tril­lion) nu­clear power plan.

CEO Brenda Martin, said: “The de­layed in­vest­ment of over R59bn, the cre­ation of over 13 000 con­struc­tion jobs and a fur­ther 2 000 op­er­a­tions jobs was meant to be un­locked to­day.

“In­stead, the coal lobby has sought an ur­gent in­ter­dict, cit­ing al­ready­de­bunked ar­gu­ments re­lat­ing to job losses, coal power sta­tion clo­sures and ris­ing elec­tric­ity prices.”

The SA Wind Energy As­so­ci­a­tion said pro­cure­ment was born out of the govern­ment’s pol­icy for an ex­pan­sion of SA’s energy mix to in­clude in­de­pen­dent power with an as­so­ci­ated range of clear de­vel­op­men­tal im­per­a­tives.

These in­clude a goal-di­rected tran­si­tion away from coal, the cre­ation of new jobs, a di­rect con­tri­bu­tion to South Africa’s car­bon emis­sions re­duc­tion tar­gets and in­vest­ment in the econ­omy.

Yel­land said the cost of re­new­able energy had fallen sig­nif­i­cantly and it is now cheaper than new coal and nu­clear projects. South Africa re­lies on coal­fired plants for more than 80% of its elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion while re­new­ables con­trib­ute around 7%. Eskom is one of the world’s largest pro­duc­ers of green­house gases. “Ul­ti­mately this court ap­pli­ca­tion is fu­tile and eco­nomic sense will pre­vail. South Africa must trans­form from a dirty energy econ­omy,” Yel­land said. – with Reuters

IT’S HAP­PEN­ING: Energy ex­pert says the move to re­new­able energy is a global phe­nom­e­non.

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