7 October 2007 – Harnessing the power of the Congo River is one step closer to becoming a reality, with construction of the Inga 3 dam due to start in 2008.

Investment in the project could reach $120 billion by 2025 for South African utility, Eskom.

At a meeting last week, Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga said the Inga hydropower project, along with Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa hydropower project, could make a significant contribution to South Africa’s future energy mix.

In addition to boosting South Africa’s electricity reserves, the projects will hep Eskom meet the target of at least 2% ‘clean’ energy out of total generation.

"Given the international climate change imperatives, we plan to reduce the coal component of our optimised portfolio to 70% (from 88%) by 2025," said Maroga.

The Inga 3 project is managed by Westcor, a joint venture company owned by the various power utilities: Eskom, Botwana Power Corporation, Empresa Nacional de Electridade of Angola, NamPower, and Société Nationale d’Electricité of the Congo.

With a generation capacity of 3 500MW, the project will distribute power to South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Namibia and the DRC.

Inga II power station

Inga II power station

The Inga hydropower scheme has been developed in phases. Inga 1 and 2 are undergoing refurbishment, as poor maintenance during the Congo’s civil war left the machinery operating at only 30 percent of capacity. Inga 3 is expected to be completed by 2011.

Grand Inga, the final part of the project, will produce an additional 4 000MW and will be built once the first three stages are operating successfully.

The additional capacity offered by Grand Inga is enough to provide power for the whole of Africa, with excess capacity available to European markets through interconnections via Morocco and Spain.

Global Insight, a US based consultancy, estimates the full potential of the Congo river to be 40 000MW – approximately twice as much as China’s Three Gorges hydropower project.