HomeRegional NewsCentral AfricaWorld's biggest hydropower scheme gathers momentum

World’s biggest hydropower scheme gathers momentum

The existing Inga
dam in the DRC
Lubumbashi, DRC — ESI-AFRICA.COM — 16 November 2011 – South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have signed an agreement and are moving ahead with construction of a major hydroelectric power project, which is said to be able to bring electricity to more than half of the continent’s 900 million people.

Together with his Congolese counterpart President Joseph Kabila, South African president Jacob Zuma witnessed the signing of a deal to construct the Grand Inga Dam. It will be built 225km southwest of the DRC capital Kinshasa, on one of the largest waterfalls in the world, the Inga Falls, where the Congo River drops almost 100m and flows at an enormous speed of 43 cub m per second.

The Grand Inga hydropower project will be the world’s largest hydropower scheme and part of a greater vision to develop a power grid across Africa that will spur the continent’s industrial economic development, reports allAfrica.com. Until now, the power of the Inga Falls has been largely unused, with the two existing hydroelectric dams, Inga I and Inga II, operating at a low output of mere a 1,775MW.

The project will have a capacity of 40,000 megawatts (MW) “’ more than twice the power generated by the Three Gorges Dam in China, which is the world’s largest hydropower dam.
“It will enhance access to clean and efficient energy across the continent and contribute significantly towards a low carbon economy and economic development,” declared Zuma at the signing ceremony here. He described the event as “a day to prove Afro-optimists right.”

The construction of Grand Inga “’ with completion aimed at 2025 “’ comes with a huge price tag of US$80 billion dollars, and connection of Inga to a continent-wide electricity grid will cost at least an additional US$10 billion dollars.

These are not sums South Africa and the DRC are able to bankroll alone, says allAfrica.com, but help is reported to be near.

The world’s top development financiers “’ the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank “’ as well as a number of private, foreign energy companies, are all keen to contribute large sums to the Inga initiative in return for substantial economic benefits from this mega-project.

For now, the project looks at building only long-distance transmission lines to Africa’s mining and industrial heartlands as well as to urban centres in South Africa, Egypt and even Europe.
According to the AfDB, a Franco-Canadian consortium is in the process of conducting a US$15 million study to assess the potential for developing the site in stages.

With the backing of the world’s major development banks, the DRC and South Africa are forging ahead with their plans to build Grand Inga. After the signing of the agreement, Zuma and Kabila ordered the start of negotiations for a treaty over the next six months, which will put into effect the agreement by detailing time frames and implementation stages for the dam construction.

Once completed, the generated electricity will be managed by the state-owned utility companies of both countries, South Africa’s Eskom and the DRC’s Societe Nationale d’Electricite Societe a Responsibilite Limitee National.