South Africa Renewable Energy

South Africa—NO 100% 2050 commitment
Benchmark: The construction of 37.4 GW of wind capacity and 17.6 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity by 2050

The electricity sector is the highest contributor to GHG emissions in South Africa. With blackouts experienced in 2008, and more looming as a constant threat, proper planning for the country’s energy security is essential to meeting overall economic growth targets. Yet, at the same time, the country has to honor its commitments made under the Paris Agreement. To that end, the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is the official government plan for new electricity generation capacity. The latest draft update, IRP2016, makes far-reaching proposals about the energy mix until 2050. The draft version was open for public comment and has not yet come into effect. The plan advocates the following likely scenarios, known as the ‘base case’:

  • Electricity demand will be between 310 and 355 TWh in 2030 (about 100 TWh lower than envisaged in the previous plan) with demand rising to between 390 and 530 TWh in 2050.
  • The construction of 37.4 GW of wind capacity and 17.6 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity between 2020 and 2050.
  • The gradual decommissioning of most existing coal power stations by 2050 in line with international carbon emission agreements.
  • A substantial increase (35.3 GW) in electricity generation from gas. Due to the high cost of gas it is generally used only as a backup.
  • The construction of just over 20 GW of nuclear power. But this would only gradually come on line between 2037 and 2050.

The draft IRP2016 has come under tremendous criticism, with some commentators calling it ‘lightweight and superficial’. Also, there are a number of glaring errors and omissions from the gazetted policy. The state-owned power utility, Eskom, is disgruntled about the proposed delay in increasing nuclear capability and has threatened to ignore key recommendations in the IRP2016. On the other hand, renewable energy proponents argue that the plan does not take into account the considerable cost-savings that can be realized with these green technologies in the next 20 to 30 years.

One program that could become a game-changer in the pursuit of renewable energy is the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP), which was discussed in a previous Climate Scorecard report. The REIPPP is an auction program tasked with deploying 18,800 MW of renewable energy by 2030. If run properly, it shows much potential in harnessing the country’s abundant solar and wind power. The challenge will be in ensuring that Eskom does not renege on signing the necessary contracts with independent power producers.
There are many developing country leaders who understand the severity of climate change. One example is the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), where several African countries pledged to achieve 100% renewable energy between 2030 and 2050. Regrettably, South Africa is not a member of this forum and is lagging behind in implementing the necessary policies to adequately reduce our GHG emissions.

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For a critique of the draft IRP2016, see:
The original IRP2010 is available here:
The draft IRP2016 can be accessed here: