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’
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.