Mmegi Online :: Congo's Inga power projects seek new lease of life
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Last Updated
Tuesday 18 September 2018, 23:51 pm.
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Congo's Inga power projects seek new lease of life

Stakeholders in the multi-billion dollar Inga hydroelectric power project in Congo met in London last week to try and pump in a new lease of life in the project that could be the world's biggest.
By Staff Writer Wed 19 Sep 2018, 00:19 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Congo's Inga power projects seek new lease of life








The stakeholders in the $80-billion power project included international banks, businesses and representatives of several African nations. Botswana which is actively involved in the project was represented at the meeting by Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Ponatshego Kedikilwe.

The proposed project will entail the development of Inga 3, which will include the construction of the 3 500-MW Inga 3 hydropower station in the DRC.

According to the Southern African Power Pool proposal, the 3 500 MW generated at the Inga 3 power plant would be transmitted by means of two 400-kV, high-voltage ac lines to Capanda power station, in Angola. Two multiterminal, high-voltage dc (HVdc) systems, comprising transmission lines stretching 3 000 km, will be established through Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

The Grand Inga dam could, if it gets the green light politically and commercially, dwarf China's Three Gorges scheme and increase Africa's power generation by more than one-third. But the problems dogging the project are massive, ranging from political instability including the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) recent civil war to local objections and, not least, the massive costs involved.

"We have been trying to facilitate the decision-making that would allow these projects to go forward on a sustainable and affordable basis," said Gerald Doucet, head of the World Energy Council (WEC), which is hosting the meeting.

"We are trying to bring affordable, clean energy to the DRC and Africa," he told a news conference. "These projects have to benefit Africans, not only in terms of the social and civil side but also job creation and electricity connections in Africa that allow people to move out of poverty."

Never has the demand for clean power been higher, driven by economic growth, rising urbanisation and the battle against climate change due to burning fossil fuels. Big business, which for years shunned Africa, has suddenly developed a new interest, attracted by the rich pickings to be had in the new carbon emissions market and the credits they can get from investing in so-called clean development projects.

The run-of-river Inga I hydroelectric plant was commissioned in 1972 and Inga II followed a decade later. But both have fallen into disrepair and now only manage to produce about one quarter of their joint capacity of 1,7 gigawatts of electricity.

The little power

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they are producing is going exclusively to power the mines of Katanga, with none to local people in a country where 92 percent of the population is without electricity. "We have to address the concerns of the people living in the area. There aren't many, but those who do live there haven't seen any benefit from Inga I or II," Doucet said during a break in the two-day meeting.

Both are now being refurbished with World Bank money, but the Canadian company carrying out the work has warned that, due to silting problems, even when new machinery is installed output will still be one-third below capacity.

The planned 4,3 gigawatt Inga III, expected to cost $5,5-billion, is optimistically expected to start construction around the end of 2010 but not come on line for a further eight years. As yet the project has still not been financed.Grand Inga, which unlike I, II and III would dam Africa's biggest and fastest-flowing river and could generate 40 gigawatts of power, is still only at the feasibility study stage and is not expected to be approved or rejected until 2014.

"There are huge, huge challenges to face. WEC is trying to address those challenges to get to a point of decision-making on Inga III and Grand Inga that makes this project relevant for Africa within the next 20 years," said Doucet.

South Africa, suffering a spate of power cuts, Nigeria and Egypt have all expressed interest in Grand Inga and Inga III, and there has been talk of exporting what would be the world's cheapest electricity to Europe and Israel.

Electricity consumers here in Botswana , like inmost SADC countries ,will from this year face supply shortages and tariffs increases  as their main power supplier ,South Africa's Eskom, begins to hike power prices as well as cut down on power exports due to its own massive local demand which it is failing to meet.

Botswana Power Corporation(BPC) has already indicated that from this year upto 2001, during peak periods ,they are going to introduce among others measures of load shedding  if they fail to secure additional imports from the Southern African Power Pool to supplement the supply from their traditional majority supplier (ESKOM of South Africa).(Additional reporting by mining weekly)

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