World Bank clarifies stance on 4,800-MW Inga 3 hydroelectric project

A project appraisal document submitted to the World Bank Group’s executive board this week seems to conflict with earlier reports that the lending institution had changed its funding model for the Inga 3 hydropower project.

The 116-page document, available for viewing online here, shows the World Bank could provide a US$73.1 million grant to the Democratic Republic of Congo for “Inga 3 Basse Chute (BC) and Mid-Size Hydropower Development Technical Assistance”.

This seems to contradict an earlier report from water resources watchdog International Rivers, which said in February that the bank was planning to change development of the 4,800 MW hydroelectric plant from a public sector project to a private one.

At that time, International Rivers said the World Bank had withdrawn the grant and was working toward a private investment deal via the International Finance Corporation that could have potentially caused much of Inga 3’s output to go to mining companies instead of the 90% of DRC’s population that does not currently have access to electricity.

The World Bank reaffirmed yesterday, however, that DRC’s common population is still intended to be Inga 3’s greatest beneficiary.

“Investing in transformative projects that expand people’s access to electricity is central to achieving the World Bank Group’s twin goals of helping to end extreme poverty and creating shared prosperity,” spokesman David Theis said.

The World Bank said the project will still be developed in a public private partnership, though both it and the DRC government will have a strong role in selecting private developers, rallying public funding and negotiating power purchase agreements.

The grant appraisal will be discussed during a World Bank board meeting March 20.

HydroWorld.com reported in November of this past year that the African Development Bank (AfDB) had approved US$68 million in financing to be used by the Inga Site Development and Electricity Access Support Project (PASEL) to support Inga 3’s development.

DRC also recently recruited expressions of interest from consultants to perform additional feasibility studies for the project.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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