Congo will ask SADC to help build Grand Inga hydropower plant

September 6, 2009

KINSHASA (Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo will invite more countries into Western Power Corridor Co., the regional partnership that plans to build the $5 billion Inga 3 hydropower plant on Africa’s biggest river.

The central African nation will ask all 15 members of the Southern African Development Community to join Westcor at a regional summit due to be held in Kinshasa on Sept. 7-8, said Bene M’Poko, the Congolese ambassador to South Africa.
“What we’re going to propose during this summit is a framework whereby we should aim to produce more than 4,000 megawatts so that we can accommodate the needs of everyone in the region,” M’Poko, who is also the contact point for SADC, said on Friday in an interview in Kinshasa. “Let’s open the doors so all the countries can join in.”
Angola, Botswana, Congo, Namibia and South Africa in 2005 established Westcor to develop Inga 3 and tackle growing power shortages in the region. The plant would generate 4,300 megawatts from the Congo River, the world’s second-largest river by volume.
Congo will also urge SADC to include the proposed $80 billion Grand Inga project into its plans to boost regional electricity supplies, M’Poko said. The Congolese government last year suggested the Grand Inga project replace the Inga 3 project after the country’s energy needs grew. Grand Inga would generate 40,000 megawatts, enough to power the entire continent of Africa.
------------Aluminum smelter
BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company that offered to put $10 million toward a feasibility study for Inga 3, will get the 2,000 megawatts it needs for a planned aluminum smelter in Congo, M’Poko said. If Grand Inga is built, BHP and Westcor won’t have to compete for energy, M’Poko said.
Congo’s government has promised to collaborate with BHP and Westcor. The absence of a final decision on which project to proceed with has meant the Inga 3 dam hasn’t been developed.
Congo should first complete the Inga 3 project before looking at Grand Inga, which partners are reluctant to fund at this stage, Westcor Chief Executive Officer Pat Naidoo said in October.
He didn’t immediately reply to a message left on his mobile phone when Bloomberg News called him for comment on Friday.