Power sector in 2030
Zimbabwe’s power generation is mainly based on coal and renewable energy, each accounting for close to half of it (53% for coal and 47% for renewables in 2019). The renewable power is mostly hydropower generated by the Kariba dam. Other sources, to a much lower extent, include biofuels and biomass (like bagasse) and small grid connected solar systems.9 Deficits in meeting the demand is met with imports of power from South Africa (coal-generated), Mozambique (hydropower) and Zambia, as well as regular load shedding with knock-on effects on the economy.10
Analysed 1.5°C compatible pathways show the share of renewable energy in the power sector increasing from 47% in 2019 to 96-98% by 2030 and reaching 100% already by 2040. Fossil fuel share (solely coal) sees a drastic reduction to 0-3% by 2030. To achieve a 100% renewable energy-based power sector, Zimbabwe would need to abandon its expansion plans for the Hwange coal plant, as well as other smaller coal plants, and phase them out to avoid the risk of being locked into a carbon intensive pathway with costly stranded assets.9,10 Zimbabwe’s National Renewable Energy Policy (2019) contains a target to increase installed capacity of a range of renewable energy – excluding large hydro – from five percent in 2017 to 27% in 2030.9
Towards a fully decarbonised power sector
The drive to make Zimbabwe’s power sector carbon neutral depends almost entirely on investment in renewables, the phasing out of coal and thermal power plants and eventually a reduction of its reliance on fossil fuel imports. The potential mitigation strategies in the power sector include options such as solar, micro-grids, and energy efficiency improvements.1 The updated NDC indicated, however, that building new hydropower installations would not be feasible “within the planning horizon in question ”.2
Under 1.5°C pathways, a fully decarbonised power sector could be achieved between 2028 and 2035 with the renewable energy share rising to 100% by 2040 and coal phased out by 2030. Similarly, carbon intensity would need to decline from 810 gCO₂/kWh in 2019 to between -230 to 30 gCO₂/kWh by 2030. While the updated NDC states that large hydro is not in the pipeline as its not feasible by 2030 (although identified in the 2019 LTS to have the potential to mitigate up to 75% of the sector’s total emissions by 2030, it will be key for the country to foster the development of variable renewables such as wind and solar.5,6
1 Ministry of Environment Climate Tourism and Hospitality Industry. Long-term Low Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategy (2020-2050). (2019).
2 Republic of Zimbabwe. Revised Nationally Determined Contribution. (2021).
3 Zimbabwe Power Company. Hwange Power Station – Zimbabwe Power Company.
4 Ministry of Environment Water and Climate. Zimbabwe’s Third National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2016).
5 Ministry of Environment Climate Tourism and Hospitality Industry. Zimbabwe’s First Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC. (2020).
6 Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) 2021-2025. (2019).
7 UNDP. Bright days ahead as the National Energy Policy is unveiled in Zimbabwe. (2012).
8 Murwira, S. “No electricity for cooking”: Droughts in Zimbabwe cut the lights in poor households – climatetracker. Climate Tracker (2021).
9 Ministry of Energy and Power Development. National Renewable Energy Policy. (Ministry of Energy and Power Development, 2019).
10 South Africa’s Eskom supplies Zimbabwe with 400 megawatts of power | Africanews.
11 Ministry of Energy and Power Development. National Renewable Energy Policy. vol. 1 (2019).
12 WorldBank. Access to electricity (% of population) – Zimbabwe | Data. (2021).
13 IEA. Zimbabwe Country Profile. IEA – Countries & Regions. (2022).
14 See assumptions for the NDC quantification here:1p5ndc-pathways.climateanalytics.org/methodology/#zwe-ndc
15 Global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C tend to include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches, and often rely on rather conservative assumptions in the development of renewable energy technologies. This tends to result in greater reliance on technological CDR than if a faster transition to renewables were achieved. The scenarios available at the time of this analysis focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology, and our downscaling methods do not yet take national BECCS potentials into account.
Zimbabweʼs power mix
terawatt-hour per year
- Renewables incl. biomass
- Unabated fossil
- Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS
- Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
Zimbabweʼs power sector emissions and carbon intensity
- Historical emissions
- High energy demand - Low CDR reliance
- SSP1 Low CDR reliance
- SSP1 High CDR reliance
- Low energy demand
1.5°C compatible power sector benchmarks
Carbon intensity, renewable generation share, and fossil fuel generation share from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for Zimbabwe
Decarbonised power sector by
Carbon intensity of power
−230 to 30
−280 to −30
−140 to −130
2028 to 2035
Relative to reference year in %
−128 to −97%
−135 to −103%
−117 to −116%
Year of phase-out
Share of unabated coal
0 to 4
Share of unabated gas
Share of renewable energy
96 to 98
Share of unabated fossil fuel
0 to 4
Demand shifting towards the power sector
The 1.5°C compatible pathways analysed here tend to show a strong increase in power generation and installed capacities across time. This is because end-use sectors (such as transport, buildings or industry) are increasingly electrified under 1.5°C compatible pathways, shifting energy demand to the power sector. Globally, the “high energy demand” pathway entails a particularly high degree of renewable energy-based electrification across the various sectors, and sees a considerable increase in renewable energy capacities over time. See the power section for capacities deployment under the various models.
Zimbabweʼs renewable electricity investments
Billion USD / yr
Yearly investment requirements in renewable energy
Across the set of 1.5°C pathways that we have analysed, annual investments in renewable energy excluding BECCS increase in Zimbabwe to be on the order of USD 0.2 to 1 billion by 2030 and 0.3 to 2 billion by 2040 depending on the scenario considered. The ‘high energy demand, low CDR reliance’ pathway shows a particularly high increase in renewable capacity investments, which could be driven by an increase of electrification of end-use sectors, growing energy demand, and expansion of electricity access. Other modelled pathways have relatively lower investments in renewables and rely to varying degrees on other technologies and measures such as energy efficiency and negative emissions technologies, of which the latter can require high up-front investments.