JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa will find out on Thursday afternoon whether the North Gauteng High Court will prevent the minister of energy Jeff Radebe and power utility Eskom from concluding agreements with independent power producers (IPPs). 

Numsa appeared before the court on Tuesday, asking it to block 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.

Numsa general secretary, Irvin Jim accused the minister of wanting to rush signing the IPP contracts without considering the impact this decision would have on workers and their families.

Jim said the deal would plunge Mpumalanga province into a crisis because the majority of the industries depended on the existence of coal fired power stations in the area. The closure of five Eskom power stations in Mpumalanga would cause at least 30,000 job losses, Numsa has said.

"The government cannot be allowed to conclude these agreements without first dealing decisively with this issue. There are no plans, and no initiatives by the state to re-skill or re-establish new businesses to support the community once the IPP’s are rolled out," said Jim.

Numsa says it doesn't oppose renewable energy or an energy mix but wants a sector which is controlled and owned by workers and the community.

"The IPP project will have a devastating impact on our economy and is likely to result in high electricity tariffs and that is why we reject it," Jim said.

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

- African News Agency