South Africa urges decision on Grand Inga hydropower plant

Inga Hydropower Plant

A South African legislative committee on energy has recommended that the country make an official decision regarding the 40,000-MW Grand Inga hydropower complex being built in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

South Africa’s Cabinet advanced a treaty for joint development of the project to its Parliament in August, which was the signed in October.

The treaty — which provides a framework for facilitating power generation from the Grand Inga project and a cross-border power transmission line — has not yet been ratified by South Africa due to concerns regarding DRC’s political and financial stability.

Should South Africa ratify the treaty, however, it would be committing to buying 2,500 MW of power from the complex’s 4,800-MW Inga 3 Basse Chute component, while also gaining the right of first refusal for both equity and off-take from all future phases of the project. The off-take is reported as being a guaranteed minimum of 20% of all generated power, equal to a minimum of 9,540 MW and a maximum of 13,060 MW.

The same rights would also extend to any related hydropower development on the Congo River in or around the complex.

South Africa is interested in the project given Grand Inga’s potential to help diversify and decarbonize its current generating fleet, while also providing energy security for the future.

HydroWorld.com reported in March that DRC had received a US$73.1 million technical assistance grant from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) for the Inga 3 Basse Chute (Lower Falls) project. DRC also recruited consultants in July and August to serve on expert panels on dam safety monitoring and environmental and social monitoring of Inga 3 Basse Chute.

The 350-MW Inga 1 and 1,424-MW Inga 2, completed in 1972 and 1982, respectively, are currently undergoing refurbishment. In all, the Grand Inga complex is expected to include seven phases.

DRC announced last October that it had short-listed three groups of companies to be the potential developer of Inga 3 Basse Chute. They include China Three Gorges Corp. and Sinohydro Corp. of China; Posco and Daewoo of South Korea and Canada’s SNC-Lavalin Group Inc.; and Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA and the Eurofinsa Group of Spain. The country’s government has said it hopes to begin work on the Inga 3 portion by October 2015.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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