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Planning and prospects for renewable power: Eastern and Southern Africa

East and Southern African countries possess vast potential for renewable energy development. This report assesses the prospects for the power sector in the countries of the ACEC through 2040.


East and Southern African countries possess vast potential for renewable energy development. Co-ordinated regional plans will play a vital role in scaling up the use of renewables for power generation, strengthening regional power supplies, meeting national climate commitments and ensuring energy security.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) supports countries across East and Southern Africa in their aim to promote collective actions for increasing sustainable electricity generated from renewable sources in the region. IRENA's Africa Clean Energy Corridor (ACEC) framework envisages a broad, North–South power transmission corridor that encompasses 21 continental countries in the East African Power Pool (EAPP) and Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

This report, the fifth in the series Planning and prospects for the renewable power: Africa, assesses prospects for the power sector in countries from the two power pools through to 2040. The report includes recommendations for potential generation and transmission projects of regional importance, with the aim of informing regional power planning processes.

Among the findings:

  • Unless generation capabilities are reviewed and re-considered, the ACEC region is on track to construct more than 100 GW of new coal-fired power based on existing power pool master plans from 2020 to 2040, thereby tripling carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 1 200 megatonnes (MT) per year.
  • Interconnector infrastructure expansions can facilitate power trade between ACEC countries with different types of renewable energy resources.
  • Emissions from the power sector will peak by mid-decade and thereafter decline to below 2020 levels by 2040 in most of IRENA's scenarios.
  • A diverse mix of renewable sources can offset temporary or seasonal shortfalls in hydropower.
  • The regional power system would benefit from increased cross-border electricity trade, partly as a balancing mechanism against supply fluctuations from solar PV and wind power.
  • Synergies between hydropower and VRE sources can help to make the overall electricity system more flexible, both nationally and regionally.
  • Creating a renewables-based power system across the ACEC region requires investments of USD 562 billion between 2020 and 2040.

The report’s analysis was conducted using the IRENA’s MESSAGE-SPLAT modelling framework. The framework was recently endorsed by the five African Power Pools as an official planning tool for the upcoming Continental Power Systems Masterplan Development, an initiative of the African Union Development Agency, in which IRENA is a partner.