Energy for Growth Hub
Memo Oct 25, 2023

[Update Oct 2023] Coal’s Future in Africa is (Still) Dim

Shaping Energy Transitions

This memo updates project information since our July 2021 analysis.

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

Using the latest data, 39 coal-fired power plants totaling ~51 GW of installed capacity currently provide about 30% of all electricity produced on the African continent, equivalent to about 2.4% of the global total (Table 1). Yet, most African countries have no coal power, while 85% of this capacity is in one country, South Africa. The remaining nine countries combined account for 0.36% of the world total.

What about new coal?

While Africa’s current coal capacity is negligible, many fear a potential boom, especially in countries with domestic coal resources. As of July 2023, the Global Coal Plant Tracker lists 27 potential new coal plants (excluding refurbishments) across Africa with a total capacity of about 13 GW. But many of these projects are unlikely to ever be completed.

To assess how many 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 two coal plants with 1.9 GW appear likely to commission anytime soon. These are the final large new units at Kusile in South Africa and one medium-sized unit at Hwange in Zimbabwe.
  • Seven plants are already shelved or very unlikely. A further 16 projects of 5.8 GW are unclear; progress is possible, but they are all in a very early phase.
  • The 870 MW ZhongXin project in Zimbabwe (previously rated Likely) reportedly requires additional financing and has been downgraded to Unclear.

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