Power: Inga III will have to wait
21 July 2014
The Africa Report
With the legal framework, tenders, impact studies and financing still to be finalised, construction of the dam is unlikely to start before the end of 2016.
Despite the desire of President Joseph Kabila and water resources minister Bruno Kapandji Kalala to launch the construction of the huge Inga III Dam in October 2015, numerous obstacles mean that the date is set to be pushed back.
In March, the World Bank's country director for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eustache Ouayoro, announced that the first stone would not be laid until "near the end of 2016".
The World Bank approved a $73.1m grant for technical assistance for Inga III on 20 March.
Before construction work begins, the government will establish the Agence pour le Développement et la Promotion d'Inga (ADEPI), which will be responsible for the management of the project and the mobilisation of finance, estimated at $14bn by the World Bank.
The World Bank is working on a special law for the Inga project that the DRC parliament will approve. ADEPI will also be responsible for negotiating electricity sales contracts.
The government says it pre-selected three consortiums for the work in June and July of 2013, but another group could play a spoiler's role as Kapandji invited other companies to submit their bids last October.
Before the initial work begins, consultants have to complete environmental and social impact assessments for the project, which received finance of $33.4m from the African Development Bank last year.
Several technical decisions have not yet been taken, including the exact location of the dam, the depth of its foundations, the construction materials to be used and the itinerary of the transmission lines.
The lines are set to deliver electricity to South Africa, either via Zambia and Zimbabwe or via Zambia and Botswana.
The parties involved are also discussing the size of the dam. The consultants at South Africa's Trans-Africa Projects estimate that the announced capacity for Inga III - 4,800MW - will be too low to meet the government's proposed commitments.
The DRC plans to export 2,500MW to South Africa, while directing 1,300MW to the mining industry in Katanga Province and providing 1,000MW for the rest of the country.
In order to do that, the consultants say that the production capacity must be 5,500-6,000MW to take into account that production levels are typically 15% less than the installed capacity and that about 10% is lost through the transmission process.
The dam's financing is far from resolved, too. Unusually, the World Bank said that its commitment to fund studies did not mean that it would participate in the dam's construction.
The World Bank is looking to maintain a leadership role in the project because Inga could be one of the most profitable hydroelectric projects in the world - with generation costs estimated at $0.03/kWh - and the African governors in the Bretton Woods institution asked it to support the project.
However, non-governmental organisations have been pressuring the United States (US) government, the largest shareholder in the World Bank Group, not to participate in large dam projects.
In January 2014, the US Congress approved an act that instructs government agencies to oppose the financing of major hydro- electric projects through international financial institutions.
Inga III is a complex project that involves many actors, so further setbacks are possible. Nonetheless, it is still attracting interest from across the continent.
The Nigerian government might be interested in electricity imports, said power minister Chinedu Nebo in March.
Kapandji is also trying to get the members of the Southern African Power Pool on Kinshasa's side. "South Africa is also interested in the phases that follow," Médard Kitakani, communications director for the DRC's Société National d'Electricité, told The Africa Report.
The country could import 15% of Grand Inga's total generation capacity of 39,000MW, according to Kitakani.
Original article by François Misser