The Democratic Republic of Congo said the developer for the first phase of the $100 billion Grand Inga hydropower project will be selected by August for construction to start by June next year.
The Inga 3 BC hydropower scheme is the first phase in the construction of the Grand Inga hydropower project, located 225 km from Kinshasa, and 150 km upstream of the mouth of the Congo into the Atlantic Ocean. The Grand Inga scheme would have a generation capacity of 40,000MW and would be developed in seven phases beginning with Inga 3, which itself would have two phases. Its two components would displace about 35,000 people (10,000 for Inga 3 “Basse Chute” and 25,000 for Inga 3 “Haute Chute”).
Two of the three groups that answered Congo’s 2010 call for bids remain in the running, Bruno Kapandji, head of the Office for the Development and Promotion of the Grand Inga Project, told a conference Friday in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. There were 11 bidders initially, he said.
The $12 billion Inga 3 project intends to address a power shortage that is curbing mining-industry growth in Africa’s biggest copper producer, but progress has been slow. It will initially produce 4,800 megawatts, almost double Congo’s current installed capacity, 2,500 megawatts of which will be sold to South Africa under an October 2013 treaty between the two countries. The larger Grand Inga hydropower complex would span the Congo river and produce as much as 50,000 megawatts of power when complete, according to the World Bank.
Congo will sign a power-export agreement with Nigeria next month, Kapandji said. Earlier this year, it reached an accord to supply energy from the 3,000-megawatt second phase of Inga to Egypt. The memorandum between the General Authority for Suez Canal Economic Zone and Congo doesn’t yet include firm commitments on energy offtake or financing but will “drive the project forward” Kapandji said in February.
The two groups contending for the first phase are China Three Gorges Corp. in partnership with Sinohydro Corp., and Madrid-based Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA with Spain’s Eurofinsa SA, Kapandji said. The third bidder, Posco and Daewoo Corp. of South Korea in partnership with Canada’s SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. withdrew its interest in March, he said.
Under the terms of the treaty with South Africa, power must be delivered by 2020. Out of the two remaining bidders, the Chinese group is promising to bring the project online more quickly, Kapandji said.
“The Spanish one said they’re going to finish all the works in five to six years,” he said. “The Chinese candidate said a maximum of five years and if they’re free to do whatever they want to do they can even do it in four years.”
China, the world’s biggest buyer of industrial metals, is Congo’s largest trading partner, with two-way flows exceeding $4.3 billion in 2014. The government already has a series a large infrastructure and mining projects with Chinese companies including Sinohydro.
Last month, China Three Gorges signed a memorandum with the state-owned Societe Nationale d’Electricite to address Congo’s power problems.
Opposition to the project
The Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered decades of civil war, during which corruption has become entrenched in the socioeconomic fabric of the nation. By many accounts, the country has acquired a reputation as a failed state. It is sad to note that, in this vein, the Inga 3 stands to become a large-scale infrastructure of false ideals. People will have to be relocated and agricultural land in the Bundi Valley will be lost. The development model for the project does not appear to make any considerations to meet the expectations of the locals. On the contrary, the project will only add national debt burden, with very strong prospects of promoting corruption and allowing powerful companies to cheaply exploit and export Africa’s vast natural resources. Large volumes of research carried out worldwide have shown that grid-based electrification is not cost-effective for much of rural Sub-Saharan Africa where the population density is low. Renewable energy solutions such as wind, solar and micro hydropower projects are much more effective at reaching the rural poor, said International Rivers int their commentary to the project viability.