DRC expects delays for 4,800-MW Inga 3 hydropower project

The Democratic Republic of Congo announced last week it expects the date for the US$14 billion 4,800-MW Inga 3 Basse Chute hydropower project, originally planned to begin generation in 2020 or 2021, will be delayed until 2024 or 2025, according to Kenya-based Group Africa Publishing Ltd.

While the announcement did not specify why the original date for generation is being pushed back, the project has extensive unmet funding needs.

In June, DRC asked Chinese and Spanish parties to partner in bidding for a contract to construct Inga 3, which would span one channel of the Congo River at Inga Falls. But, no decision from the parties on whether to fund this phase of the hydropower complex has been made.

Also in June, HydroWorld.com reported DRC and South Africa were considering a framework to jointly develop the project.

DRC has received more than $73 million in technical assistance grants from the World Bank’s International Development Agency (IDA) to help with the Inga 3 Basse Chute and Mid-Size Hydropower Development Technical Assistance program, but IDA suspended disbursements last year.

IDA said it suspended funding because of the “decision to take the project in a different strategic direction to that agreed” between DRC and the World Bank in March 2014. At the time, IDA made the decision after DRC President Joseph Kabila took over control of the project from the prime minister’s office in July 2016.

DRC plans for the project include developing successive stages of what is to become the 42,000-MW Grand Inga hydroelectric complex. The complex includes the Inga 3 Basse Chute project and the Inga 3 Haute Chute and Inga 4-8 projects.

The Inga site currently includes the 350-MW Inga 1 and 1,424-MW Inga 2, located in western DRC about 140 miles southwest of Kinshasa. The plants began operation in 1972 and 1982, respectively, and both facilities are currently undergoing refurbishment.

According to DRC, it estimates the total cost of subsequent phases that would have the entire project span all of the Congo River near Inga Falls would cost about $100 billion.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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