Enabling Southern Africa’s Transition to a Low-Carbon Electricity System

Southern Africa faces the dual challenge of providing affordable energy to meet its rapidly growing electricity demand while limiting carbon emissions and socio-environmental impacts. We developed cost-optimal low-carbon electricity pathways for the 12 mainland countries of Southern Africa. In contrast to existing regional plans, our results show a dominant role for wind, solar PV, and battery storage technologies.

Importantly, we found no new coal generation capacity and only about half of planned hydropower capacity to be cost-effective. High clean energy targets (80% of total generation) and greater consideration for biodiversity protection and socio-economic impacts incur modest costs (6% and 2% increase respectively). We provide policy recommendations to enable this sustainable, low-carbon electricity transition in Southern Africa.

Ranjit Deshmukh, Kudakwashe Ndhlukula, Grace Wu, AFM Kamal Chowdhury