26 June 2009 – Workshop talks in Kinsasha, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), have just finished and paved the way for the next stage of development of the Inga III hydro power scheme, with plans to establish a project company and steering committee.

It was proposed that a company be established to develop the 4320MW scheme and have responsibility to negotiate contracts for design and construction activities, funding, licensing and operations.

The talks, which followed completion of the pre-feasibility study by SNC Lavalin last year, also proposed that a project steering committee be established within 60 days, or by late August.

Construction of the run-of-river Inga III scheme is estimated to cost approximately US$7.6B and be commissioned around 2018-21.

Roles of development partners were clarified during the workshop, and it was confirmed that sufficient funds were available for the next phase of the planning. It was noted that a focus of the funding assessment dealt with development supporters so far, mainly the Western Power Corridor (Westcor) countries – DRC, Botswana, Angola, Namibia and South Africa – and also the concerns of BHP Billiton with regard to its aluminium smelter.

Organisations that participated in the pre-feasibility study, which concluded in February, included the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), the EU, BNP Paribas, Fortis, BCDC, ANAP and K’Water.

A technical and financial analysis of the scheme was carried out by a group including BNP Paribas and Ingerop with financial support from the World Bank.

Separately, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is undertaking comparative studies of the Inga site. The bank approved funds a year ago to study hydro power potential of the Inga complex on the river Inga, and links to the power grid. The studies are being undertaken by DRC’s national electricity company, Societe Nationale d’Electrcite (SNEL), assisted by Africa Power Tools, and is to be completed in 2010.

The Inga complex, on the lower Congo river, is one of the key areas of hydro power potential in the world. The Inga 1 and 2 plants are being refurbished and beyond plans for Inga III there is the possibility of construction of the world’s largest scheme – Grand Inga – which would have an installed capacity of approximately 40GW, and could be built by 2020-25.

Last year the World Energy Council (WEC) hosted talks in London to help examine the financial aspects of developing the hydro potential of the river Inga. In the talks, the Inga III and Grand Inga projects were viewed as strategic, complementary ventures with estimated potential electricity production of 320TWh per year. The total cost of the two plants would be more than US$40B, excluding the transmission system.

Refurbishment work is underway under a public-private initiative for the Inga 1 and Inga 2 plants, which had original capacities of 351MW and 1424MW, respectively. However, reduced demand and funding limitations resulted in a poorer maintenance budget and power output.