Blocking IPP signing a 'delay tactic' nothing more - Yelland

Johannesburg - South Africa cannot fight the move towards renewable power, energy expert Chris Yelland said on Tuesday.

Yelland was commenting after the Department of Energy had put the signing of 27 independent power producer (IPP) contracts with private sector companies temporarily on hold in the wake of a last-minute court bid. 

New Energy Minister Jeff Radebe was set to sign the 27 independent renewable energy contracts, including power purchase agreements, in Centurion on Tuesday morning.

But late on Monday, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Transform RSA approached the North Gauteng High Court to freeze the contracts, saying they would lead to jobs being lost in South Africa’s coal industry.

While Numsa has maintained that it did, in fact, obtain a court interdict to stop the contracts being signed, the Department of Energy has denied this. 

The department said in a media statement on Tuesday that it decided to voluntarily postpone the signing "in the spirit of constitutionalism and the rule of law".

Yelland, the investigative editor of EE Publishers, on Tuesday described the court bid as a “delay tactic”, saying the move towards renewable energy is a global trend which would not leave South Africa behind.

“You cannot fight the move to renewable energy, the sector just needs to ensure that there is a just transition,” he said. 

Dr Dom Wills, the CEO of solar project developer SOLA Future Energy, said in a statement on Tuesday that renewable energy should be seen as an opening for South African business. 

“The change that is happening in the energy industry should be seen as a great opportunity, rather than a threat for Numsa members,” said Wills in a statement.  

“Coal-based industries are diminishing worldwide; renewables, in contrast, are booming. Over 70% of new energy construction worldwide over the next 20 years is expected to come from the renewables sector.”

The Department of Energy expects the court matter to be disposed of when it returns to the high court in Pretoria on March 27, and the signing of the contracts to continue as planned shortly thereafter. 

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