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Tue Jul 26 02:40:53 SAST 2016

Further delays with DRC’s Inga hydroelectric project

TMG Digital | 21 January, 2016 16:32
Lightbulb. File photo.
Image by: YUYA SHINO / REUTERS

Further delays have been reported with the Inga III Hydroelectric Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from which South Africa will be able to draw 2‚500MW of power once completed.

However‚ Frost & Sullivan say the DRC’s commitment to attracting foreign investment could turn the tide in the project’s favour.

The first phase of the Inga III dam project‚ Basse Haute (BC)‚ is planned to commence in 2017 and has the capacity to generate 4‚800 megawatts (MW) of green energy. The hydroelectric potential of the Inga site is estimated at 40% of the continent's total capacity‚ according to Frost & Sullivan.

Should the project gain traction‚ a multitude of opportunities will present themselves in operations‚ maintenance and indirect markets like consulting and skills development‚ it says.

It adds that new analysis finds that the government of the DRC will collaborate with several African states‚ either as off-takers of power or as host countries for transmission lines.

“With South Africa's cabinet having approved the ratification of the treaty‚ this will allow South Africa to consume 2‚500 MW of the power from Inga III‚ while other off-takers will include the capital city of Kinshasa and the mining region‚” it says.

"Inga has already been delayed as the selection of a consortium to build the dam is in an unplanned second round of bidding‚" says Frost & Sullivan energy and power systems research analyst Tilden Hellyer. "While the cost of Inga III and the associated transmission lines have been budgeted at US$14 billion‚ the amount has been underestimated several times in the past and it is unclear what the true cost might be."

According to Hellyer‚ environmental concerns surround The Bundi Valley. “The area will flood when the Congo River is channelled‚ submerging arable land. However‚ several experts in geology‚ geotechnology‚ and sedimentology have been appointed to conduct studies aimed at minimising the environmental impact of the project.”

If the project gathers momentum‚ it will take six years to complete common infrastructure‚ with both direct and indirect markets standing to gain‚ says Hellyer.

"Transmission and distribution networks under the leadership of South Africa will require technical expertise in DRC‚ Zambia‚ Zimbabwe‚ Botswana and South Africa. By connecting the South African Power Pool through transmission makes it easier to collaborate‚ strengthen relationships and build revenues.

“A private consortium under a concession contract with the DRC will take shape to repair old and construct new transmission lines within the DRC. A similar concession contract will emerge for the power station at the Inga site."

The success of the Inga III Basse Haute will open up further opportunities to explore DRC's hydroelectric power capacity and its potential to truly become Africa's energy highway‚ adds Hellyer.

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