29 April 2008 – The World Energy Council (WEC) meeting last week in London focussed on the future of the Democratic Republic of Congo as the country with the highest hydro generation capacity in Africa, if not the world.

Inga II power station

Inga II

Supporters of the Inga project believe it could deliver as much as 75 000MW of power. Power generation on the Gongo river currently consists of Inga I and Inga II and plans are underway for Inga III and later, Grand Inga. Inga III will be able to generate up to 4 500MW and it is hoped construction could begin as early as 2010, while figures of 40 000MW have been cited for Grand Inga.

“There is a lot of interest in the project and we are increasingly confident that we will be able to raise the $5-billion to $6-billion required [for Inga 3],” said Pat Naidoo, CEO of Westcor, the utility driving the initiative.

Inga has been on the continent’s agenda for more than three decades and was first raised in the early 1980’s. However, political instability within the DRC meant the project was shelved.

However, Naidoo says the difference now is the "confluence of supportive energy, environmental and political factors that have hitherto been absent. Most notably, the emerging peace and stability in the sub-region, the prevailing electricity crisis in South Africa, and a desire among the development finance institutions to bankroll low-carbon electricity initiatives."

At a meeting in earl April, South Africa’s President, Thabo Mbeki said South Africa and the DRC were keen to offer Inga 3 to potential investors and development finance institutions.

Westcor will be seeking funding for US$30 million for a feasability study, as well as an additional US$30 million for designs for the transmission system which will transport power to Egypt in the North and South Africa in the South.

“…there is a strong commercial basis for this project and it has the potential to entirely redefine the economies of the West Coast of Africa,” Naidoo said, estimating that power from Inga III could sell for approxiamately "US5c/kWh, which would yield yearly revenues of $1,75-billion once the facility was producing at a capacity of 4 000 MW."

During the meeting, politicians and financiers strategised on ways to raise the US$80 billion needed for the entire Inga project (Inga III – 4 500MW and Grand Inga – 40 000MW) and it was reported by WEC secretary general Gerald Doucet that the aim of the project is to "raise the level of access of commercial energy all through Africa and other parts of the world, where poverty is a threat."