The City of Cape Town is awaiting a court ruling on whether it can buy its own electricity from suppliers other than national power utility Eskom without getting approval from the energy minister.

High court judge Leonie Windell on Tuesday reserved judgment in the case between the city and the energy ministry and energy regulator Nersa.

The case could pave the way for South African municipalities to bypass the ministry and source their own power, much of it from renewable sources. It would also reduce revenue for Eskom, which produces most of its energy from coal and is saddled with R454-billion in debt. Eskom’s inability to supply sufficient power has resulted in repeated power cuts.

“Allowing municipalities to contribute to ensuring supply security is an important avenue to returning South Africa to a reliable and secure electricity system,” said Jesse Burton, a senior associate at E3G, an independent London-based climate change think tank. “National government continues to tie municipalities to the high-cost future of expensive Eskom and expensive new coal plants, just as cities worldwide become sites of innovation and climate ambition.”

Burton provided an expert statement for the Centre for Environmental Rights, an environmental legal organisation that is an amicus to the case.  — Reported by Antony Sguazzin, (c) 2020 Bloomberg LP