South Africa’s Inaugural Grid Emission Measure Highlights Coal Dependence

South Africa produced its inaugural official gage of the carbon intensity of its electricity production, confirming its status as one of the world’s top producers per capita of greenhouse gases.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and he Environment this month said that the country’s domestic generation grid emission factor, or DGGEF, a measure of the carbon intensity of electricity produced in the country, is 1.013 tons of carbon dioxide or its equivalent per megawatt hour. The department used 2021 data.
While there’s no direct comparison, as different methodologies are used to determine the factor, Ember, a climate think tank, said South Africa has the most carbon-intensive energy system of any of the countries in the Group of 20 nations followed by Saudi Arabia and India.

The introduction of the measure is further step by the country, which relies on coal for more than 80% of its power, to transition its grid away from fossil fuels. While the process has been beset by political infighting, it has committed to ambitious emission reduction targets and has drawn up a plan to lessen its dependence on coal.

“Government can use these factors to monitor and analyze electricity emission trends, guide climate change mitigation modeling and inform climate change mitigation policy response,” the department said in a response to questions.

Ember’s own measure of the South African grid emission factor is lower but the country “might be using more tailored methodology based on actual plant emissions,” it said.

The gage can be used by operators of carbon credit projects, which aim to either remove or prevent climate-warming carbon dioxide or its equivalent from entering the atmosphere, to determine the impact of their programs. In addition to the DGGEF, which was based on the 216.2 million tons of emissions South Africa’s power plants produced, the department said the national generation grid emission factor, which includes imported hydro power, was 985 kilograms of carbon dioxide or its equivalent emitted per megawatt hour.