South Africa’s renewables sector slammed the nation's coal lobby for “wasting time” and slowing the energy transition, after a judge threw out an attempt to cancel power deals with some of the country's biggest wind and solar projects.

A judge at the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday rejected an application by the Coal Transportation Forum (CTF) to set aside power purchase agreements (PPAs) struck between state utility Eskom and more than 2GW of wind and solar projects successful under Round 4 of South Africa’s REIPPPP procurement programme.

The CTF – which represents coal truckers – had argued the PPAs were concluded without following due process, in an action that swept up some of the biggest names in global renewables, including Enel, Elawan and Mainstream Renewable Power.

The Round 4 projects were offered power deals as long ago as 2015, but only finally signed last yearafter a long standoff with Eskom that tested the patience of investors in the sector.

Efforts to shift Eskom and the rest of the South African power sector towards renewables have run into stiff opposition from the country’s powerful and politically well-connected coal generation and mining sectors.

The CTF's trucks have previously blockaded Pretoria over the issue, and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) failed in a court bid a year ago to halt the signing of the PPAs.

The legal action comes with the power sector centre-stage in South Africa, which has been suffering rolling blackouts as a result of load-shedding by Eskom, whose coal-reliance, heavy debts and ageing fleet are the focus of a major national debate.

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), which led the renewables sector’s defence, said the action represented the second failed legal action against renewable IPPs in two years.

SAWEA CEO Brenda Martin said: “There is ample evidence now that [REIPPPP] has not only secured additional megawatts capacity, helping to reduce the impacts of load-shedding, but has also created new jobs and strengthened rural communities.

“This is the second case brought – and lost – by coal interests against making progress on the South African energy transition. We think that enough time has been wasted. Let's get on with managing the energy transition and delivering an energy secure future for SA.”

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