The Inga Dam project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been work in progress for more than 50 years.
The first feasibility studies for the initiative being investigated in the 1960s. The construction of Inga I, the first of four stages of the venture, was commissioned in 1972. The project is intended for completion sometime between 2020 and 2025 and could cost up to$80 billion. The Inga hydropower scheme is touted as being the solution to Africa’s energy woes—it is thought that when complete it could generate as much as 45,000 megawatts—more than South Africa, the biggest producer on the continent.
On the Inga Dam rests new projects, like BHP Billiton’s $5 billion aluminum smelter project, which could consume as much as 2,000MW.
“The major shortage of power is stopping development in many sectors,” says Thierry Naweji Kankwala, chairman of the South Africa-DRC Chamber of Commerce.
Capital is the biggest issue. A slice of a $100 billion green energy fund could emerge from the COP17 talks in Durban and that could help.
Another one of the comlications is the structure of the finance for the project. In 2004, the Western Power Corridor, or Westcor, a cluster of African countries including the DRC, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, signed a memorandum of understanding to finance Inga III, but in 2009 the government of DRC changed its mind and turned to private investors.
Environmental concerns such as deforestation have also been raised. The World Energy Council estimates that the project could save 100 million tons of carbon being spewed into the atmosphere.
The completion of the Inga Dam project could be a coup for the continent with transmission lines planned as far afield as Egypt and Europe.
“The project will have a big impact in the continent, especially in the Southern African countries (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and others),” says Kankwala.