THE SADC region is poised to become a major continental source of energy if current plans to boost generation capacity are implemented.
The region is home to the world’s largest proposed hydropower scheme, the Grand Inga, which is the centrepiece of a grand vision to develop a continent-wide power system.
Located in western Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), about 50 km upstream of the mouth of the Congo River and 225km southwest of the capital Kinshasa, Grand Inga is expected to generate 40,000MW when completed.
Based on a feasibility study conducted between 2011 and 2013, Grand Inga will be constructed in six development phases, with the Inga III Dam and hydropower project being the first of these phases.
When completed, Inga III will produce 4,800MW of electricity. The proposed dam is the fourth and largest of a series of dams that have been built or are proposed for the lower end of the Congo River.
The dam site is on the largest waterfall in the world by volume, the Inga Falls – a series of falls and rapids that drop in elevation via small rapids.
The falls are incorporated into the current Inga I and Inga II hydroelectric facilities, with the volume of the river diverted some 30 percent of the average discharge. The power generated will be double the capacity of the largest dam in the world, the Three Gorges Dam in China.
The DRC and South Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2011 for the development of Grand Inga and followed that up with a cooperation Treaty in May 2013 to jointly develop the Inga III Dam.
South Africa will purchase 2,500MW of the total 4,300MW generated, making it the principal buyer for Inga III electricity. The DRC has commenced the process of selecting a developer, with a number of consortia currently bidding for selection as developers of the Grand Inga.
These include SinoHydro and the Three Gorges Corporation from China, Actividades de Construcion y Servicios, and Eurofinsa, bothof Spain, and Daewoo- Posco from South Korea. Construction is planned to commence in 2016 following the conclusion of social and environmental assessment studies.
The Grand Inga mega-project is a priority for a number of Africa development organizations, including SADC and the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Grand Inga dam has been estimated to cost more than US$80 billion, including cost of the transmission lines needed to carry its power across Africa and potentially to Europe.
Another SADC country, Angola, has also announced plans to quadruple its power generation capacity from the current 2,250MW to about 9,000MW by 2025.
Energy and Water Minister João Baptista Borges said most of the power will come from the Middle Kwanza hydropower station, Lauca station and the Central Cambambe hydro plant.
“Our ultimate goal is to reach 9,000MW by 2025,” he said, adding that “This means multiplying by four the current capacity, our great resource is hydropower production.”
At least US$23 billion has already been invested by Angola in the energy sector to rehabilitee and expand some of the existing power plants.
“The rehabilitation of power station and the expansion of the distribution networks of these dams are our priorities because we want to be part of the best producers of power in Africa, as well as produce and distribute the energy to Angolan population,” the Secretary of State for Water, Luís Filipe da Silva, said.
Key activities to fall under the investment include the construction of a hydropower station at Lauca Dam which will add 2,060 MW into the national system whilst another Combined Cycle Station with a production capacity of 750 MW will be constructed. sardc.net