The Coal Transporters’ Forum (CTF), a lobby group for road haulage companies feeding Eskom power stations, has vowed to appeal a resounding defeat it suffered in court last week.
The forum was trying to get South Africa’s massive Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme declared unlawful and force Eskom to cancel all existing contracts with companies supplying it with energy derived from wind and solar plants.
The scathing ruling handed down last week dismissed all of the forum’s legal contentions as being “without merit”.
“We will appeal,” said the CTF’s spokesperson, Tshepo Kgadima, who is a coal mining entrepreneur.
He said that the judgment only dealt with “legal technicalities” and not the merits of the forum’s case.
Kgadima said that the forum was “of the firm legal view that the judgment delivered by Justice Piet Meyer is erroneous in the extreme on various points of law and therefore a gross miscarriage of justice. This legally absurd and untenable judgment is a case of egregious judicial overreach and mischievous judicial frolic.”
The disputed facts in the case mean that one or other side of the fight is delusional.
The judge sided with Eskom, the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) and the renewable industry on all counts.
The CTF has insisted that none of the independent power producers even has generation licences from Nersa.
“Despite CTF’s protestation to the contrary, the evidence is simply overwhelming that the regulator issued to each successful independent power producer bidder an electricity generation licence after following a public participation process for each project, including public hearings, and it issued a written decision,” said Judge Meyer.
Kgadima also says there is a “debate” about whether coal emissions cause damage and worsen climate change.
The judge said that coal power’s most significant impact is “the emission of greenhouse gasses, which make the Earth’s surface warmer and, in turn, contributes to climate change”.
Kgadima’s most spectacular claim is that it is physically impossible for renewable producers to even provide power to South Africa’s grid. This, he said, was because the grid was not designed to take on intermittent power from producers that only generate electricity when the sun shines or the wind blows.
“It is the laws of physics ... they do not contribute a single megawatt to the grid,” he told City Press.
Eskom is no friend of the renewable energy producers, but it has not once levelled that accusation against them, and an electrical engineer City Press spoke to said the claim was laughable.
However, Eskom has also complained about the intermittent nature of renewable power and the difficulties of transmitting it from the isolated sites that have conducive solar and wind conditions.
In its last financial year, Eskom bought 9 584 gigawatt hours of power from independent producers for R19.3 billion.
That, however, includes peaking plants burning diesel in addition to renewables.
Power from independent producers costs 222c per kilowatt-hour, but the renewable component of that costs in the region of 172c per kilowatt-hour. While this is higher than Eskom’s coal power stations, successive generations of renewable power producers have contracts with Eskom at sharply decreasing prices, meaning the average costs will decrease over time.
The forum is only one of a number of interest groups trying to fight the renewables programme. The National Union of Metalworkers is opposed to it and a recent ally making similar arguments is the libertarian think-tank the Free Market Foundation.
Eskom’s policy is to reduce road haulage of coal anyway as the utility switches to more efficient integrated “tied mine” options.
The average volume of coal delivered by truck this past financial year was 3.7 million tons a month, Eskom said.