The political economy of decarbonisation: Exploring the dynamics of South Africa’s electricity sector

Briefings and reports

Key points

  • Decarbonisation goes far beyond what is technologically or even economically feasible, to encompass a complexity of political, social and economic factors.
  • South Africa’s coal-dominated electricity sector, a key feature of the country’s minerals energy complex, is in crisis and subject to change. This offers potential opportunities for decarbonisation.
  • Despite positive examples of decarbonisation in South Africa’s electricity sector, such as a procurement programme for renewable energy, there are structural path dependencies around coal-fired generation and security of supply.
  • Decision-making in electricity is highly politicised. Lack of transparency and power struggles in the policy sphere are key challenges to decarbonisation.
  • There are battles over which technologies should be prioritised and which institutional arrangements should facilitate them.

Read more about Lucy Baker and her work at CIED.