As the largest emitting sector, the power sector will be critical in the decarbonisation of the South African economy. For the sector to be on a 1.5°C compatible pathway it would need to phase out coal by 2033, and be fully decarbonised by 2035-2040. To achieve this phase out would require very substantial just transition measures given the high workforce involved in the coal sector.
The country’s electricity plan (IRP2019) does not include a near-term phase out of coal, instead it commissions another 1.5 GW of new capacity, which by 2030 would see coal make up 43% of total installed generation capacity, down from 65.5% in 2018.4
South Africa has huge renewables potential, in particular for solar and wind power. While the proposed procurement of 6800 MW of renewables in the IRP2019 is promising, renewable power generation to date (4% in 2017) falls far short of what is required to reach 1.5°C compatibility: 78-90% by 2030 and 96-100% by 2050. Current plans to decommission ageing coal plants are insufficient and undermined by plans for new fossil fuel capacity.
Key power sector benchmarks
Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS
- 2030 78 to 90% Renewable share
- 2036-2040 Zero emissions power
- 2042 92 to 100% Renewable share