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South Africa Sectors

What is South Africaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Power sector in 2030

South Africa’s power sector is dominated by coal (~90% in 2017). 1.5°C compatible pathways show the need to drastically reduce coal reliance by around 2030 to 10 -14%. Similarly, carbon intensity would need to drop in the current decade from 900 gCO₂/kwh to 80-150 gCO₂/kWh by 2030.

South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019) aims to procure a total of 14,400 MW of Wind and 6000 MW of PV between 2022 and 2030, which would bring the annual energy generation of PV, Wind and concentrated solar power to approximately 24.7% of the power mix by 2030 – well short of the 78% and 90% required for a 1.5°C compatible pathway.16

While the IRP2019 outlines the decommissioning of several older coal plants, the commissioning of another 1500 MW of coal and 3000 MW of gas and diesel by 2030 is incompatible with bringing the carbon intensity of power production to zero.

Towards a fully decarbonised power sector

The carbon intensity of power production needs to reduce from 900 gCO₂/kwh in 2017 to zero in 2035, and then contribute to negative emissions thereafter. Achieving this requires a far more ambitious decarbonisation plan than outlined in the IRP2019. This level of reduction requires coal to be phased out not later than 2033, and a share of renewable energy in power generation close to 100% by 2040.

Between 2011 and 2015 South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) added renewable energy to the power mix and drove down the cost of supply of electricity.14

1 Climate Action Tracker. South Africa’s Presidential climate commission recommends stronger mitigation target range for updated NDC: close to 1.5°C compatible | Climate Action Tracker. (2021).

2 Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries. Proposed updated Nationally Determined Contribution. (2021).

3 Climate Action Tracker. South Africa 2020. Climate Action Tracker. (2020).

4 Republic of South Africa. South Africa’s Low-Emission Development Strategy 2050. (2020).

5 Department of Energy, S. A. Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019). (2019).

6 The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa. Political Declaration on the Just Energy Transition in South Africa. (2021).

7 Department of Environmental Affairs. South Africa’s 3rd Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change. (2019).

8 Climate Analytics. Climate Transparency Report – South Africa. (2020).

9 Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries. Draft 7th National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report for the Republic of South Africa for public comment. Government Gazette. (2020).

10 Department of Energy. SA Energy Sector Report 2019. (2019).

11 Eberhard, A. & Naude, R. Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. (2017).

12 Government of South Africa. South Africa’s Low-Emission Development Strategy. (2020).

13 South African Revenue Service. Latest on the impact of COVID-19 on SARS. (2020).

14 Government of South Africa. National Climate Change Response White Paper. (2014).

15 Department of Environmental Affairs. South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). (2016).

16 Department of Environmental Affairs. South Africa’s 2nd Annual Climate Change Report. Department of Environmental Affairs vol. 3. (2016).

17 Department of Energy. Draft Post-2015 National Energy Efficiency Strategy for public comment. (2016).

18 Department of Transport. Green Transport Strategy for South Africa (2018-2050). (2018).

19 Surridge, A. D. et al. CCUS Progress in South Africa. in 15th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies (GHGT-15) (2021).

20 United Nations. World Urbanisation Prospects. (2018) doi:978-92-1-151517-6.

21 International Energy Agency (IEA). IEA Data and Statistics, Data Browser. World Energy Outlook. (2021).

22 Cilliers, Z. & Euston-Brown, M. Aiming for Zero-Carbon New Buildings in South African metros., (2018).

23 Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment. South Africa’s 4th Biennial Update Report To the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2021).

24 Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). National GHG Inventory Report South Africa 2017. (2021).

25 Statistics South Africa. Economy slips into recession. (2019).

26 Statistics South Africa. Third wave of COVID and civil disorder pummel economy as GDP falls by 1,5%. (2020).

27 Statistics South Africa. National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) 2020. (2020).

28 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

South Africaʼs power mix


SSP1 Low CDR reliance
SSP1 High CDR reliance
Low Energy Demand
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS

South Africaʼs power sector emissions and carbon intensity


  • Historical emissions
  • Low Energy Demand
  • 100%RE
  • SSP1 Low CDR reliance
  • SSP1 High CDR reliance
  • High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance

1.5°C compatible power sector benchmarks

Carbon intensity, renewable generation share, and fossil fuel generation share from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for South Africa

Decarbonised power sector by
Carbon intensity of power
80 to 150
−120 to 0
−80 to −10
2036 to 2040
Relative to reference year in %
−91 to −84%
−113 to −100%
−109 to −101%
Year of phase-out
Share of unabated coal
10 to 14
Share of unabated gas
Share of renewable energy
78 to 90
92 to 99
96 to 100
Share of unabated fossil fuel
10 to 15
0 to 1