Our Burning Planet


In Graphs – Fossil fuels remain SA’s energy mainstay despite leading the charge on renewables within Africa

In Graphs – Fossil fuels remain SA’s energy mainstay despite leading the charge on renewables within Africa
Greater use of renewable energy can help move away from carbon-intensive power sources to create low-carbon economies. (Photo: EPA / NIic Bothma)

South Africa is the biggest wind and solar producer on the continent, but most of its energy still comes from coal.

South Africa produces the most solar and wind energy by terawatt-hours (TWh) in Africa, according to Ember, a global energy think tank. But renewable energy is only a tiny proportion of our energy mix. Only 2% comes from solar and 3% from wind in 2021.

Coal domination graphic

The 147MW Roggeveld Wind Farm, which was officially launched last Saturday, will add enough power to the Eskom grid to supply 49,200 households in the Northern and Western Cape.

Thirty-three wind farms are either fully operational or under construction, according to data from the South African Wind Energy Association.

Nevertheless, other African countries — with far less solar and wind capacity — have a higher proportion of renewables in their energy mix than South Africa.

Wind power

Fifteen countries in Africa generate electricity from wind, according to  Ember’s latest global energy report, and the four countries generating the most wind power by terawatt-hours in 2021 were:

  • South Africa (8TWh)
  • Morocco (5TWh)
  • Egypt (4TWh)
  • Kenya (2TWh)

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Kenya has the biggest wind farm in Africa at Lake Turkana with 365 wind turbines, and its wind power generation had increased to 16% of its energy mix by 2021.

But Kenya isn’t the only country where wind power supplies over a tenth of its power. Wind power makes up 12% of Morocco’s energy mix. It’s also 17% of Cabo Verde’s, but the islands only produce 0.08 TWh of wind power for its population of 555,988. 

Solar power

More than double the number of countries that produce wind power in Africa generate solar power (38 countries), with the largest solar power producers in terawatt-hours being South Africa (4.55 TWh) and Egypt (1.64 TWh).

But solar power makes up only 2% of South Africa’s energy mix and 1% of Egypt’s.

The countries with the biggest proportion of solar power in their energy mix are Senegal (6%) and Burundi (3%). They produce 0.36 TWh and 0.01 TWh respectively.

Biggest power producers in Africa

Of the 54 countries in Africa, only 15 produce more than 10 TWh of electricity per year. The five African countries that produce the most power a year are:

  • South Africa (229.72 TWh)
  • Egypt (187.84 TWh)
  • Algeria (76.63 TWh)
  • Morocco (37.01 TWh)
  • Libya (31.7 TWh)

But these five countries rely heavily on fossil fuels in their energy mixes.

84% of South Africa’s electricity and 59% of Morocco’s energy mix is dependent on coal. 76% of Egypt’s energy mix, 99% of Algeria’s and 70% of Libya’s power is dependent on gas.


Research and data from think tank Ember’s 2022 Global Energy Report. DM

This story/chart was produced by The Outlier. For more like this subscribe to the newsletter.

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