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Congo Hydroelectric Potential Hinges on Pan African Electrical Transmission Infrastructure Development

HOUSTON--August 13, 2002--Researched by (Industrial Information Resources, Incorporated; Houston, Texas). The massive hydro power potential of the Congo River and the existing Inga power station, has been the focus of efforts by the Societe Nationale d'electricite (SNEL) of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the international groups for the past two decades with the vision to initiate a pan-African electricity grid.

SNEL is now proposing that the intra-continental scheme should be initiated by the first step in the first phase towards the long-term ambition of a 39,000MW hydropwer generating complex. The Congo River has one of the highest hydropwer potentials in the world, which is only marginally utilized at present. 39,000MW represents the approximate current power output of Southern Africa, so to bring the Grand Inga site to a total of around 8,000MW by 2010 is in itself a significant target in the region and for the project. If this project were given priority it would precede the construction of Inga 3, which will have an installed capacity of 3,500 MW and Inga 2, commissioned in 1982 with a capacity of 1,424 MW. SNEL extimates that the cost of Inga 3, with a capacity of 3,500 MW, will be about the same as the first phase of Grand Inga, which will have an installed capacity of 6,000 MW.

At present Inga supplies electricity to customers in the DRC, the Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. A second interconnector to South Africa has been proposed which would traverse Angola and Namibia. The 'Northern Engergy Highway' to Egypt is planned to pass through the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and Sudan and would connect with the grids of all those countries. The 'Western Energy Highway' would supply Nigeria with connections to other West African countries en route. The total amount of energy required by all these interconnectors by 2010 will exceed the combined capacity of Inga 1, 2 and 3. This is the motivation for giving Grand Inga priority to be running at full capacity by 2010.

The total Grand Inga project, implemented in four phases, would cost around $4 billion. The Northern Energy Highway and related infrastructure would cost $5 billion. The Western Energy Highway to Lagos would deliver 1,000 MW and would cost $600 million. An alternate southern connector, reinforcing the existing line could go through Zambi, Zimbabwe and Botswana to South Africa. This would deliver 1,120 MW and cost $461 million but would only succeed after the rehabilitation of Inga 1 and 2. A new line to the south would cost $1.05 billion and deliver 1,000 MW.

Overall the cost of rehabilitating Inga 1 and 2 and the existing connector to Southern Africa and to build either Inga 3 or the first phase of Grand Inga will need $12.1 billion. If, as preferred, $1.27 billion is spent by 2005 to rehabilitate the existing plants and the Southern African generator for $1.27 billion and build the western highway then the balance of $10.83 billion would go to the first phase of the Grand Inga power station, the northern highway and the new connector to South Africa.

The African Development Bandk (ADB) funded $2.73 million in studies between 1993-7, which indicated that the Grand Inga project and the northern energy highway to Egypt would be feasible.

SNEL accepts that the restructuring/privatization of Africa's energy sector must proceed quickly if funding is to be secured for the grid scheme. Nigeria is in talks with SNEL on the project, thw World Bank and other international groups and banks are in contact with the project's progress. Eskom, the dominant South Africa power utility is well along the road to a dynamic new structure and is involved in new projects and rehabilitation schemes throughout the continent with a corporate vision to see the dark continent come alight. Funds directed to Africa by the G8 countries must enhance infrastructure development projects and enhance the local skills and capacities to handle projects. European, North American, Asian and Australian companies already have accumulated experience of African projects.

NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development is also reinforcing funding, channels, structures, for good corporate governance with political will to make Africa funder friendly. NEPAD has indentified more than 20 projects, in the energy sector for short-term action on the continent. This includes the Grand Inga Integrator under the 'studies section. Other sections are: power systems projects, gas/oil transmission projects, regional capacity building and regional facilitation.

Ongoing investment in potentially power hungry mining and mineral processing ventures has atttractive potential as the continent is the last to experience the use of hi-tech prospecting and exploitation techniques on its undeveloped ore bodies and deposits. Given the political will pan-African scheming is not pie in the blue sky. For investors dramatic returns and growth from a low base are the norm in an increasingly tax-friendly business environment.

Established in 1983, Industrial Information Resources Incorporated (IIR) is a leading source for industrial market information covering the industrial process, manufacturing and energy markets. IIR has developed a unique Power Generation Database, wich incorporates New Build Tracking, Combustion Turbine Profiles, and Maintenance Outage Tracking int a single source dynamic database format. For more information send inquiries to or visit us online at or

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Updated: 2016/06/30

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