Published in World Development Perspectives, Vol. 25, March 2022.
As the US and much of Europe pursue aggressive plans to decarbonize, in part by replacing coal-fired power stations with cleaner sources, the global focus has shifted to coal in emerging economies. Several studies have projected a boom in new coal power generation in Africa, more than 30 GW (GW) of new capacity operational by 2030. Such a scenario has been used to justify proposed prohibitions on all new fossil fuel projects, including gas for cooking, power, fertilizer, or industry. We examined two of the most influential studies projecting steep increases in African coal and we independently collected and analyzed government and media reports on each of the 22 potential projects listed in a widely-used public database. Based on this analysis, we find the ‘likely’ greenfield coal capacity to come online by 2030 to be just one project of less than 1 GW. We find another 12 projects exist on paper but remain at an early stage of development or are showing minimal progress, suggesting they are unlikely to be online by 2030, if ever. Even counting these additional projects, the potential maximum is about 7 GW. In sum, Africa is not on the cusp of a coal boom and thus fears of one should not be used to justify blanket fossil finance bans.
Read the full paper here, available for free download until February 2022.