AFRICANGLOBE – With an estimated cost of $80bn, the Grand Inga Hydropower Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will not come cheap.
But its 40GW output would drive Africa into a brave new world of industrialisation, potentially lighting up the continent from Cape Town to Cairo.
However, the absence of clear intent from Kinshasa has so far capsized attempts to dam the Congo River.
If built, it would dwarf China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest energy generating body, with almost
double its capacity.
Two smaller power stations, Inga I and II, are currently in place with an optimum generation capacity of 1,775MW, but output is far less, due to a maintenance backlog.
Plans exist for Inga III, which could generate 4,300-5,000MW at a cost of $8bn-10bn, but despite years of discussion and planning involving the World Bank and African Development Bank, there have been no firm commitments.
Timeline: Work at Inga III could begin in 2014 and take several years
Costs: Inga III could cost upwards of $7bn, Grand Inga would cost $80bn
Probability: 30% – unless the DRC’s leadership improves
In 2010, the Congolese government rejected a plan to develop Inga III by Westcor, a consortium of regional power producers led by South Africa’s Eskom.
A rival proposal by BHP Billiton to build a 2,500MW plant collapsed in February due to the credit crunch and the firm’s frustration with the Congolese government’s economic decision-making.
Now the South Africans are back.
The DRC government says it wants work on Inga III to begin in 2014 and electricity production to commence in 2017.
Yet the DRC remains a volatile, risky investment destination, negotiating with the energy parastatal is as difficult as ever, and it is still not clear whether the government wants to build Inga III or Grand Inga, or both.
Also, the absence of a promised treaty between the DRC and South Africa on Inga remains an ominous sign