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Numsa stops energy jobs in NC

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The move by Numsa and Transform SA was clearly meant to sabotage renewable energy in favour of coal

Picture: Danie van der Lith

The signing of the outstanding renewable energy Independent Power Producer (IPP) purchase agreements, set to to bring billion of rands of investment and create more than 30 000 jobs in the Northern Cape, was yesterday postponed after the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Transform RSA applied for an an urgent interdict at the North Gauteng High Court to prevent Eskom from concluding the power purchase agreements.

The Minister of Energy, Jeff Radebe, last week announced that government and Eskom would sign the 27 outstanding agreements pertaining to bid rounds 3.5 and 4 of the Department of Energy’s acclaimed Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Programme.

The bulk of the outstanding 27 projects, which include wind, solar PV and CSP, are earmarked to be constructed in the Northern Cape, which has over 60 percent of the preferred bid allocation.

At the time of the announcement, Radebe said that the Northern Cape would benefit from 59 percent of the 61 600 full-time jobs the projects, with a combined investment value of R56 billion, would provide.

According to the Department of Energy, Numsa and Transform SA on Monday approached the High Court, for an order interdicting and restraining Eskom from concluding the 27 renewable energyprojects, including the power purchase agreements with Eskom.

Following contradicting media reports, the department reiterated that the court refused to grant an interim interdict against Eskom or the Minister but instead postponed the matter to March 27 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 was scheduled by me for Tuesday (yesterday). However, counsel for the Minister, informed the court that whilst there is no interdict granted, the signing will however be postponed until the March 27, when the matter is finally disposed of in court,” Radebe said in a statement.

However, Numsa and Transform RSA said that they had successfully launched a late night high court bid on Monday to urgently interdict Eskom from signing the 27 (IPP) contracts.

“The court found that our application meets the standard for urgency and therefore granted us the interdict. Furthermore, the Energy minister was forced to give an undertaking in court that he would not sign the IPP agreements on Tuesday (yesterday) until the matter has been given a full hearing by the High court,” Numsa said in a statement issued by its general secretary, Irvin Jim.

“This is a victory for Nuumsa. We joined this application with Transform RSA in order to protect the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their families.”

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

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

The union claimed that the IPP roll out would raise the cost of electricity dramatically “because IPP’s cost much more than coal-fired electricity”.

“The ANC government clearly wants to make the working class and the poor suffer even more than they do now.”

The union said it was demanding the opportunity to make submissions to National Energy Regulator of South Africa, Eskom and the Energy minister on the IPP contracts and the implications for our members and their families.

“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 still pending at the North Gauteng High Court. They were attempting to impose this deal on us without consultation, but we stopped them.”

The matter will be heard at the North Gauteng High Court on March 27.

Greenpeace Africa yesterday strongly condemned the attempt by Numsa to halt the signing.

Greenpeace said the move by Numsa and Transform SA was clearly meant to sabotage renewable energy in favour of coal.

“We no longer live in a world where renewable energy should be viewed as a threat, and to do so, 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. A just transition is not a nice-to-have, it is imperative,” Greenpeace’s political advisor, Happy Khambule, said.

He added that coal was a dying industry that is constantly facing challenges and bleeding jobs.

Khambule said contrary to Numsa’s argument that renewable energy would lead to job losses in the energy sector, renewable energy is actually creating new job opportunities.

“Claims made by Numsa that renewable energy will push up the price of electricity are clearly false. Numerous studies have shown that renewable energy is the least cost electricity choice. It is inexplicable for Numsa to be defending and protecting the coal industry, which disproportionately exploits people and natural resources in pursuit of profits,” Khambule concluded.