15 September 2009 – The uncertainty about whether the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government planned to reverse the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC’s) mandate over the development of the high-potential Inga hydroelectric projects appears to have been lifted, following the recent Heads of State summit in Kinshasa.
President Joseph Kabila took this opportunity to reportedly reaffirm the earlier intergovernmental, multi-utility approach to the development of the power projects, reassuring stakeholders that the hydro projects will proceed under the auspices of an expanded set of SADC members and the Western Power Corridor Company (Westcor).
There had been recent speculation that the government of the DRC intended to pursue the project independently in partnership with BHP Billiton. Now that SADC and Westcor both hold a reaffirmed position in the project, they intend to keep to the commissioning timetable of 2015 and believe in fact that the power could begin to flow from the first two machines as early as 2012. Prefeasibility studies have already been completed and the next stage is now to assemble the financial, legal and engineering capabilities needed to implement the project.
Some estimate the latent hydro potential of the region to be more than 100 000 MW, with the ‘Grand Inga’ project alone estimated to be able to produce between 40,000 MW and 50,000 MW. Extraction of this potential will require billions of dollars in investments, and is set to be exploited in a series of phases, with the initial target being the development of ‘Inga 3′. Inga 3 can ultimately yield approximately 3500 MW and will involve an investment of at least $5 billion. Most of the initial generation will be supplied to the DRC to increase the security of the nation’s electricity supply, but South Africa is also scheduled to be a key recipient of output and could be drawing up to 3 000 MW from Inga by 2015.