The Democratic Republic of Congo is located in Central Africa, northeast of Angola. Since its independence from the French government in 1960, its population has grown to 60M (July 2005 estimate). It has total land area of 2.3km3. It became a significant oil producer in the mid-1970s, and is now the fourth largest in sub-Saharan Africa (CIA Facts). Total electricity generated by Congo in 2002 was 5920GWh, consisting of 19GWh oil (less then 1%) and 5901GWh hydro (99%) (IEA Energy Statistics, 2002).

The estimated potential for hydro power in Congo is by far the highest in Africa and one of the highest in the world. It has the potential to produce 150,000MW, approximately three times Africa’s present consumption, and the Congo river has the highest hydro power potential in the country (News 4).

The technically feasible potential of hydro power in Congo is around 100,000MW. This is a due to the country’s closeness to the catchments area of the Congo river. The gross theoretical potential is approximately 1400TWh/yr, of which about 55% is regarded as technically feasible (774,000GWh/yr) (estimated in 1997). In 1991, the economically feasible potential was estimated at 419,210GWh/yr. Less than 1% of the technically feasible potential has been developed.

The national power authority Societe Nationale d’Electricite (SNEL) has 16 hydro plants, with a total rated capacity of 2426MW; its largest stations are Inga 1 (1424MW) and Inga 2 (351MW). The effective capacity at SNEL’s hydro plants has recently been less than half their rated level, owing to problems in maintenance and refurbishment (World Energy Council). SNEL also purchased 41GWh of electricity from SINELAC’s tri-national Ruzizi II hydro plant. Further hydro projects have been studied, including joint ventures Ruzizi III and IV.

A huge scheme (Grand Inga or Inga 4) exists for the installation of up to 52 generators of 750MW each (39,000MW), to supply electricity to Egypt and South Africa via new long-distance transmission lines. The construction of a first-stage plant of around 8000MW is envisaged by 2010, but implementation would depend upon success in arranging finance, together with a favorable national and international political climate (World Energy Council).

The proposed hydroelectric plant at the Inga Rapida, near the river’s mouth in the western democratic republic of Congo, would cost some US$50B and could generate twice the power of China’s Three Gorges dam. Experts believe that this project would be enough to power Africa’s industrialisation. Surplus electricity can be sold to places like Spain and Italy in southern Europe via an inter-connector under the Mediterranean sea (News 3).

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