JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's high court in Pretoria has heard an application by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa to prevent the energy minister and power utility Eskom from concluding agreements with independent power producers (IPP) pending a separate, related court case.

NUMSA said it appeared before the court on Tuesday, asking it to interdict the signing of the deal until the court heard an application by the Coal Transporters Forum, which argues that a switch to renewable energy from coal fired electricity will lead to job losses in linked sectors.

"The Energy minister wants to rush the process of signing the IPP contracts without considering the impact that this decision would have on workers and their families," Numsa said on Wednesday.

"Numsa wants to place it on record that we do not oppose renewable energy or an energy mix. However, we demand a renewable energy sector which is controlled and owned by workers and the community."

The union says the conclusion of an IPP agreement would automatically result in the closure of five Eskom power stations in Mpumalanga province, shedding at least 30,000 jobs.

Eskom supplies about 95 percent of South Africa's electricity, most of it coal-fired. Proponents of renewable energy say implementing solar and wind electricity on a national scale would eventually drive power prices down.

The government says the proposed deals with 27 independent power producers would effectively unlock R56 billion of investments over the next two to three years and create more than 61,000 jobs.

- African News Agency