The now dilapidated
Inga hydropower plant
in the DRC “’ running at
less than half capacity
Kinshasa, DRC — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 18 August 2011 – The main hydro-power operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is running at half capacity due to low water levels, triggering long blackouts in the capital and causing havoc for the city’s businesses.

Problems with the Inga I and II dams come as the DRC struggles with broken equipment at the decades-old plant, which could lead to continued outages even after water levels come back up, officials said. They added that the issue was a potential worry for President Joseph Kabila in an election year.

“Production is limited to around 350MW following this natural calamity which has struck the Congo River,” Inga director Mbuyi Tshimpanga told Reuters, adding that the plant should be producing around 800MW from its four working generators.

Reuters reports that businesses in Kinshasa have complained that the outages have forced them to run diesel generators at high cost, and a civil society leader said he was organising a demonstration to protest the blackouts this weekend.

The start of the rainy season in September will improve the situation, but capacity remains constrained by equipment problems at the plant and transmission capacity to the city that could take years to fix, according to Daniel Yengo Masampu, the director of the country’s electricity supplier, SNEL.

SNEL is carrying out US$50 million of emergency repairs to mend sub-stations in the capital and the 14 generators at the dilapidated Inga dams, eight of which have broken down.

Inga 1 and Inga 2 were built by former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko to generate 1,700MW, but have been mostly neglected. A multi-billion dollar plan to build additional dams to boost capacity further has made little progress.