JOHANNESBURG - The renewable energy industry has urged the high court in Pretoria to dismiss an application to interdict the conclusion of renewable energy agreements.

In an answering affidavit to the court, Mark Pickering said the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and Transform RSA had failed to satisfy the requirements for an interim interdict.

Pickering is the chairperson of the South African Wind Energy Association and a board member of the South African Renewable Energy Council.

He filed the answering affidavit on behalf of 35 independent power producers (IPPs) cited as respondents in the case.

Transform RSA and Numsa are seeking to interdict Eskom, the designated buyer of power from IPPs, from concluding 27 IPP agreements. Transform RSA and Numsa also wanted to be joined in an earlier interdict by Coal Transporters Forum (CTF). In June last year, CTF went to the high court in a bid to stop Eskom from signing power purchase agreements (PPAs) with the IPPs.

In the affidavit, Pickering said the court should dismiss the application.

He said Numsa and Transform RSA had failed to satisfy the requirements for an interim interdict. He said the reasons provided by the two did not provide any basis for urgency.

Implications

He said, if the contracts with the 27 IPPs were signed, Numsa and Transform RSA would be able to institute proceedings to review and set aside the agreements.

“(Numsa and Transform RSA) do not allege that the agreements will be impossible to undo if they are concluded,” said Pickering.

He said reviewing the contracts retrospectively would have no serious implications.

It would take three years from the signature of PPAs to begin supplying electricity. “Therefore, the mere signature of the PPAs cannot conceivably result in the immediate consequences that (Transform RSA and Numsa) vaguely contemplate,” he said.

He said the application to join CTF’s interdict was meant to delay the “inevitable” signing of the PPAs.

He also said Transform RSA lacked capacity to institute proceedings - locus standi - on the matter. He questioned the existence of Transform RSA, saying there was no company registered with that name.

He said Transform RSA and Numsa had failed to show that they would suffer harm if the agreements were signed. “They point vaguely to the possibility of ‘unintended consequences’ arising from the signing of the PPAs, namely a reduction in supply requiring the shutdown of various power stations, job losses and the deterioration of Eskom’s financial position,” he said.

He denied claims that the IPPs would lead to job losses. Instead, he said, the commissioning of Medupi and Kusile power stations would have a more significant effect on jobs because they would displace a number of Eskom’s older coal power stations.

Numsa legal representative Nazeer Cassim told the court on Tuesday that the conclusion of the agreements might be financial suicide. “We are trying to avert a disaster,” he said.

Cassim added the contracts would cost Eskom R1trillion over the next 20 years.

-BUSINESS REPORT