DRC/RSA: Inga Falls set to harness power potential of the Congo River
Following the energy cooperation agreement between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of South Africa on 7 March 2013, the $ 80 billion hydro power project- “Inga power project” which will start in October 2015 is set to harness the power potential of the Congo River, sub-Saharan Africa’s greatest waterway.
With a power output of almost 40,000 MW the grand Inga project is expected to bring electricity to most of the African continent. The first phase of the project (out of the total of seven phases) – Inga III will produce a power output of almost 4,300 KW.
South Africa though State owned power utility Eskom has contracted to purchase 2,500 megawatts of the power from the first phase of the Inga power project. This deal is expected to enable Congo to secure the initial $10 billion in financing required. “We have affirmed our commitment to the project by already provisioning for this purchase in our budgetary plan” says Gareth Bezuidenhout, Chief of staff of the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of South Africa.
In addition to this, mining companies operating in Katanga (South of Congo) are expected to buy 2,300 megawatts of the power generated from this project.
The African Development Bank, World Bank, French Development Agency, European Investment Bank and Development Bank of South Africa have all shown interest in financing the project.
Inga III is expected to fill the power gap in the DRC and to meet the growing needs of the country’s population and industries, particularly the mining industry and to help meet burgeoning demand in South Africa. Transmission networks are expected to be built throughout Southern Africa to supply the likes of Angola and Namibia to name a few. However, particulars on transportation of the energy and levels of such connectivity have yet to be addressed. “Inga is a factor of integration, at both a regional and international level” said Bruno Kalala, the DRC’s minister of water resources and electricity.
This project provides for the implementation of regional projects in sectors such as transport, energy, information technology and communication and management of cross-border resources. The Inga power project will thus provide more than half of the African continent with renewable energy at a low price. The benefit is that unlike most of the world great dam projects it does not require vast amounts of people to relocate, nor would it block the river and result in any significant environmental consequences.
The South African Cabinet welcomed the treaty, saying the project would extend energy access to support agriculture, mining and manufacturing in Africa. South Africa is trying to increase its electricity supply to help assist growth in the continents’ largest economy, one of the biggest universal realities we are confronted with is that we cannot continue to rely on coal, alternative cheaper and cleaner options have to be considered.