South Africa dismisses coal lobby legal challenge

South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal has rejected a legal challenge against state utility Eskom signing power purchase agreements with operators of 2.3GW of renewables projects successful in the country’s fourth tender round.

South Africa currently has 2.2GW of installed wind power capacity, according to Windpower Intelligence (pic: Iberdrola)

The Coal Transporters Forum (CTF) argued that Eskom had concluded the PPAs for the 27 wind and solar projects without following due process, and added that South Africa’s renewables procurement plan (REIPP) would harm the utility’s finances.

But a Supreme Court judge dismissed the coal truckers’ application and confirmed the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), the Department of Energy and Eskom all followed the correct procedures.

The decision ends a long legal battle over the contracts signed in April 2018.

Developers won allocations in a tender in April 2015, but Eskom delayed signing the power deals — citing overcapacity and slump in energy demand — for three years.

South Africa’s high court first rejected the CTF’s legal challenge in March 2019. The CTF was then refused leave to appeal in the High Court in June of that year, and has now been denied leave to appeal in the Supreme Court of Appeal. 

Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), said the window for the CTF to appeal in the country’s Constitutional Court had also now closed.

“The CTF legal challenge was launched on the basis of arguments which had no legal basis and which demonstrated little appreciation of government’s clear commitment to achieving a more diverse energy mix that would build national energy security while also addressing national climate objectives and achieving local economic development," Ntuli said.  

Wind power accounted for 1.4GW of the 2.3GW of renewable energy projects awarded in the 2015 tender.

It is also set to play a leading role in South Africa’s energy transition against a backdrop of power blackouts and repeated load shedding by Eskom. 

Between 2022 and 2030, the South African government envisages 14.4GW of new wind farms being installed — more capacity than any other new energy source.