The finance-focused workshop was organised by the World Energy Council (WEC) as an international forum to address ‘How to make the Grand Inga hydropower project happen for Africa’.

WEC said a three-phase action plan is proposed to support the scheme, starting with gaining wide-ranging support then setting up a project framework before moving onto raising finance and preparing for construction.

The Grand Inga and Inga III hydropower projects are seen as strategic, complementary ventures with which to integrate much of the African energy market and help take forward economic development. A further part of the strategic planning includes the roles of the rehabilitation of the existing Inga 1 & 2 plants.

The existing Inga plants and the much larger, potential projects are on the lower Congo river. For Grand Inga and Inga III the estimated potential electricity production is 320TWh per year. Energy costs for the projects are estimated at US cents 1.1-1.4 per kWh and US cents 2.1 per kWh, respectively.

Grand Inga has a potential installed capacity of 40GW, according to a pre-feasibility study 11 years ago by Electrcite de France (EDF) and Lahmeyer, and preliminary studies by DRC’s electricity commission Societe Nationale d’Electrcite (SNEL). It would be the world’s biggest hydropower scheme, and commissioning is targeted around 2020-25. The cost of the plants is estimated to be more than US$40B and this level of investment is also expected for the transmission system.

In terms of project specification, a 205m high dam is envisaged to impound a 15km long reservoir. The average annual flow rate is estimated at 42,000m3/s. According to the WEC Inga Action Plan, it is targeted that construction should commence in 2014.

SNC-Lavalin recently completed the pre-feasibility study for the run-of-river Inga III scheme, which is envisaged to be commissioned over 2018-21. Further studies in geology and hydraulics would complete the feasibility work and enable the construction phase to commence next year, said WEC. The estimated investment cost for the power plant is US$3.5B and the transmission lines is US$1.5B but as yet no figure has been given for the 150km long connection to mining company BHP Billiton’s aluminium smelter in Moanda.

Inga 1 & 2 have installed capacities of 351MW and 1,424MW, respectively. They have been functioning far below their nominal generating capacities, operating at 52% and 34%, respectively. Refurbishment work has started at both plants under a public private initiative but far more support and finance is needed, and the works are running at least 15 months behind schedule, said WEC.

The WEC-hosted workshop started yesterday and ends today.