Saturday, March 22, 2014

DR Congo: Inga III - " I plan the path of destiny from this maze "

The World Bank reports

Transformational Hydropower Development Project Paves the Way for 9 Million People in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Gain Access to Electricity

WASHINGTON, March 20, 2014–Sub-Saharan Africa is blessed with large hydropower resources that can bring electricity to homes, power businesses and industry, light clinics and schools, and spur economic activity, creating jobs and improving human well-being. Yet, only 10% of this hydropower potential has been mobilized, weakening the fight to end poverty and boost shared prosperity on the continent.

Six million people have died in the DR Congo alone since 1994. Getting communities on the grid is the first step in many instances to bringing about employment and economic growth. 

To combat this, the World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors on March 20th approved a US$73.1 million grant to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the Inga 3 Basse Chute (BC) and Mid-size Hydropower Development Technical Assistance Project.

There is vast potential for this project to change the disaster that is the DR Congo into a modern functioning state. The DR Congo is infested with armed groups that are slowly being eliminated, but a project that empowers ( literally )  the communities these thugs prey on. Eliminating poverty would go along way to eliminating instability.

DRC’s overall hydropower potential is estimated at 100 gigawatts (GW), the third largest in the world, behind China and Russia. Only 2.5% has been developed. With a 40 GW potential, Inga is the world’s largest hydropower site and its proper development can make it the African continent’s most cost-effective, renewable source of energy with an estimated generation cost of US$ 0.03 per kilowatt hour.

The Clyde Dam in New Zealand produces electricity at $NZ electricity is being generated at 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to 1999 data the most recent I can get my hands on. I assume the cost is calculated over the lifetime of the development though. The relative cost must make the world take notice. 

At the moment mining operations in the DR Congo are primitive yet the country is awash in minerals. This project has potential secondary spin offs that are mind boggling with their economic potential .  

Technical assistance for responsible hydropower development

The technical assistance project will finance in a flexible manner a series of environmental, institutional, social and technical studies that will guide sustainable development of the Inga 3 BC and selected mid-size hydropower projects, with the ultimate goal of bringing more electricity to millions of people who currently have no access.

In the Eastern DR Congo access to electricity is described thus by Goma blogger Charly Kasereka: ( My translation )
" In the avenues, lighting indicates prosperity, how people are doing by the illumination of their house.

Some have private generators and others are subscribers to a common generator purchased and connected by an individual payment of fifty dollars a month but with limits. No irons or electric stove." 

The project presents a unified World Bank Group approach to support the Government of DRC in developing under a public private partnership Inga 3-BC and mid-size hydropower project through a flexible government-led, transparent process. The project will create functional national institutions such as the Inga development agency to pilot the site development and award concessions on a competitive basis. No construction or operational activities will be funded by the technical assistance project.

The DR Congo needs functional institutions even more than it needs Inga III the project funding seems to be on future sales with South Africa signing up for the lions share. From my blog in July last year:

The treaty makes South Africa the principal purchaser of the power generated at Inga III power plant, the first phase of the Grand Inga. The country will buy 2500 MW of the total 4800 MW from the proposed dam. The balance will be sold to mining companies in Katanga in southeastern DRC." 

Transformative projects that expand people's access to electricity are central to achieving the twin World Bank Group goals of ending extreme poverty and creating shared prosperity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The task of bringing electricity – through grid, mini-grid, and off-grid solutions – is urgent. With only one in three Africans having access to energy, and only one in 10 Congolese citizens having electricity, the challenge could not be greater.

The opportunities are greater still.


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