Court Blocks $4.7 Billion in South Africa Renewable Projects

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A South African court granted an order that stops the state-owned utility from signing deals with independent producers for renewable power projects worth 56 billion rand ($4.7 billion), the applicants in the case said.

The interdict, brought by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and Transform RSA, follows a pending application to block Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. from signing the power purchase agreements.

However, the union argues in court papers that the utility already has excess capacity and signing the deals would force coal-fired power plants to shut down, resulting in job losses.

The government, which on March 8 announced its intent to sign 27 outstanding deals, has taken steps to prioritize partnerships with the private sector just weeks after President Cyril Ramaphosa took office and made his own appointments, including Energy Minister Jeff Radabe, to the cabinet.

Numsa estimates that the closure of Eskom’s power stations as a result of the renewable projects would affect at least 30,000 families. “All stakeholders should be afforded an opportunity to engage with Eskom, Nersa and the minister on these issues,” the union and Transform RSA, a civil-society group, said in the application.

The Union noted that the North Gauteng High Court, based in Pretoria, will hold a full hearing into the matter on March 27.

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