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16 Aug 2022

Oyintarelado (Tarela) Moses, The Boston University Global Development Policy Center

Chinese energy investment concentrates on hydropower in Africa and coal in Asia, research shows

"Shining a Light on China’s Support for Power Plants in Belt and Road Initiative Countries in Africa and Asia" 16 August 2022

[...] Updates from the China’s Overseas Finance Inventory (COFI) Database reveal new insights on China’s support for power plants in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) host countries in Africa and Asia. [...]

According to the COFI Database, where data is available, 31 of 49 BRI host countries in Africa have received debt or equity finance for power plants representing 36.6 gigawatts of installed capacity. Of the total installed capacity for Africa, 46% is from hydropower plants, 34% from coal-fired power plants, 13% from gas-fired plants, 3% from solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, and the remaining 4% from other fuel types. The top ten African BRI host countries with the highest installed capacity from Chinese-financed fired power plants are South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, Sudan, Zambia, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, and Zimbabwe, respectively. Seven of these ten ( South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Angola, Zambia, Egypt, and Ghana) are also included in the top ten African borrowers of Chinese loans to Africa. Figure 1 shows what fuel types of energy Chinese finance has supported, revealing that despite a huge concentration in coal in South Africa, there is a significant spread of hydropower installed capacity that exists in eight of the ten African countries, specifically from Chinese debt-financed hydropower plants. [...]

In contrast, Chinese-financed plants in 24 of 38 BRI host countries in Asia represent 125.2 gigawatts of installed capacity, the highest amount of installed capacity for a region in the COFI Database. While hydropower has been the largest destination for Chinese finance in Africa, for Asia, coal is still king. Across the region’s Chinese-financed installed capacity, 56% is from coal-fired power plants, 21% is from gas-fired power plants, 9% is from hydropower plants, 6% from solar PV plants and the remaining 8% from the other fuel types. As shown in Figure 2, the top ten BRI host countries in Asia with the highest installed capacity from Chinese-financed fired power plants are Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Laos and Turkey. [...]