Energy for Growth Hub
Memo May 21, 2021

Update: Coal’s Future in Africa is (Still) Dim

Shaping Energy Transitions

This memo uses updated project information since our December 2020 analysis.

Coal-to-power today is exceedingly modest outside South Africa

Using the latest data, 36 coal-fired power plants totaling ~54 GW of installed capacity provide about a third of all electricity produced on the African continent (Table 1). Yet, 86% of this capacity is in one country, South Africa.

Sunfunder Solar Energy Transformation Fund Jordan $2.4/ $2.4 Financing for the construction of solar power plants.
Punjab Renewable Energy Systems Private Limited India $10/ $13.3 Guarantee of a loan to finance construction of 7 biomass briquetting plants.
Nithio FI BV Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda $10/ $25 Capitalization to support loans to the off-grid solar industry.
GoSolar Energy Efficiency Costa Rica $15/ $15 Debt and equity in a portfolio of small solar projects, and construction of 5MW solar plant.
CECA SL Generation Limited Sierra Leone $217/ $284 Loan for an 87MW combined cycle thermal power plant.
Pearl Petroleum Company Limited Iraq $250/ $625 Expansion of gas processing facilities in Kurdistan region of Iraq.
First Solar India $500/ TBD Construction and operation of a new solar panel manufacturing facility.

Source: Global Energy Monitor (2021). *Includes existing projects where additional units are under refurbishment or construction.

What about new coal?

Africa’s current coal capacity is a fraction of the global total, but many fear a potential boom on the continent, especially in countries with domestic coal resources. As of 2021, the Global Coal Plant Tracker lists 22 potential new coal plants (excluding refurbishments and existing complexes) across Africa with a total capacity of 13 GW. To assess how many of these projects will actually happen, we analyzed publicly-available information for each project and rated the likelihood of completion (see Table 2). Here’s what we found:

  • Only one coal plant with just 0.3 GW appears likely to commission anytime soon.
  • Eight plants are already shelved or very unlikely. A further 13 projects of 9.7 GW are unclear; progress is possible, but they are all in a very early phase.
  • Zimbabwe, a country notorious for announcing projects that rarely reach fruition, is the main outlier. It is home to the only project rated as likely and over one-third of the capacity we rate as still unclear.

Conclusion: We remain confident that the future of coal in Africa is dead.


8 Loans to Various Financial Service Firms Global $60.7/na Financing provided to financial services firms and funds, some of which is intended to be used for energy access.
Smart RJ Concessionaria Brazil $267/$310 Provision of public lighting services and smart city infrastructure throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Source: Global Energy Monitor (2021) and other publicly available data.
Likely: Project at an advanced stage of development and expected to commission soon.
Unclear: Project at an early stage of development or lacking any clear signs of significant recent progress.
No/Unlikely: Project has been shelved, suffered major setbacks, or has shown no progress for multiple years.