Within the last ten years the World Bank has invested an estimated US$550 million annually in hydro projects alongside the African Development Bank’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), prioritising investment into nine key projects within strategic African regions.
Grand Inga controversy
Included in the nine key priority projects by PIDA, are the world’s largest hydro schemes, the Grand Inga and Inga III (43500 MW combined) in DRC, which have always been a little controversial.
The Minister of Water Resources and Electricity of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bruno Kapandji Kalala has stated that: “Inga III project is moving forward; signing a partnership agreement with South Africa last year was one of its initial stages of development. The Inga III will generate 4,200MW, being built onto one of the world’s largest waterfalls, Inga Falls, where the Congo River drops almost a hundred metres and flows at an enormous speed of 43000 cubics per second.” Minister Kapandji Kalala is scheduled to present further insights into the current developments of the Grand Inga and Inga III at the Clean Power Africa conference on 13 May 2014 in Cape Town.
Large scale hydro schemes in Africa are being criticised for their alleged inefficiency in being a clean power source and a renewable option. According to an online article published by Yale, former Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, defended the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (6,000MW) project against Western criticism in 2011 by saying: “We want our people to have a modern life and won’t allow [them] to be a case study of ancient living for scientists and researchers.” The article further adds that critics feel that giant hydro schemes are the wrong kind of development for a largely rural continent.
“A large scale hydro plant requires significant civil works, investments, which sometimes strain the realisation of the project. On the other hand, with mini-micro-small hydro schemes, such configurations are not financially intense, have a short duration, less than two years, are environmentally friendly, with minor infrastructural needs and social commitment” says Italian power solution company Marelli Motori, technical director, Gianluca Stanic, who is looking forward to debating this topic at the forthcoming Clean Power Africa conference.
Hydropower best option for Africa?
As one might agree or disagree with the statements being made by industry specialists, the fact is that large hydro engineers such as Voith are turning in favour of innovative technologies for small scale hydro. Leaving us to answer the question; is large scale hydro in Africa a realistic clean power solution? Will there be innovative technology to sustain large scale hydro plants in the long term?
Wim Jonker Klunne, Senior Researcher Renewable Energy at the CSIR, invites technical partners, hydro engineers, consultants and investors to join the debate that will address these issues and challenges in finding the resolutions to drive the sector beyond its unexploited potentials. A dedicated focus day will deliver exclusive advice from investors on clean power project progression. No project will be too small, allowing prospective investors to access and discover new market ventures on 12 May this year at Clean Power Africa.
Clean Power Africa and African Utility Week is attended by more than 5000 professionals from more than 30 African countries and 70 worldwide, from across the power, water, renewable energy, finance and investment spheres, and is the largest utility gathering of its kind on the continent.
Event dates and location:
Conference and Exhibition: 13-14 May 2014
Focus day: 12 May 2014
Site visits: 15 May 2014
Location: CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa
Website: www.clean-power-africa.com ; www.african-utility-week.com
Communications manager: Annemarie Roodbol
Telephone : +27 21 700 3558
Mobile: +27 82 562 7844