Hydropower in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Hydropower represents more than 59 % of all electricity producted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ( DRC). This may be an important part of the electrical mix but the country can do far better, according to many experts
A very strong potential
The Congo river that gave the country its name is the second longest river in the world. It represent 13 % of the world’s hydropower potential, or approximately 100 GW of installed power according to the World Bank. The Inga dams, if the ” Grand Inga ” project proves successful, will provide 40 GW of installed power, twice more than the Three Gorges dam. That represents half of the electric consumption of the whole continent of Africa, a juicy source of profits and jobs for the country. South Africa, for example, is very interested by the project and wants its pace to accelerate.
Furthermore, this economic potential is more respectful of the environment than others sources. In fact, hydro-power doesn’t produce any greenhouse gas. By contrast, other such renewable energy sources don’t have the advantage of being relatively constant and flexible, two vital arguments in a country like the DRC. One of the objective of the project is also to provide electricity for 9 million Congolese who as of yet have no access to it.
Bolstering profits, jobs, the electrification of Africa and the respect of the environment, hydro-power could be a major contributor towards the sustainable development of the DRC.
Many challenges await the country
If opportunities seem great, the current production represent only 2.5 % of overall hydro-power potential. And existing dams are only at 40 % of their capacity, due to a lack of spare parts. Furthermore, clouds are gathering above the “Grand Inga” project :
The first inconvenience is the financial cost of the dams. In fact, the “Grand Inga ” project has an estimated cost of 80 billion US dollars, while the GDP of the DRC was only 39 billion US dollars in 2015. The DRC has faced problems finding investors willing to accept a risk of that size. The country is also shot through with corruption, further reducing the chances of the project succeeding.
Another issue with the project is that little care was given to accommodate the local population near the future installations. More than 10.000 families were forcefully relocated and granted no compensation.
Finally, the electricity produced by the Inga dams will not benefit the local population : the current priority is exporting the energy produced and supplying the national mining industry.
If the country wants to succeed in its development, it has to overcome these obstacles and act in the general interest, all the while respecting the environment.
image libre de droit : https://pixabay.com/fr/barrage-rivière-l-eau-paysage-929406/