April 23, 2009 / 6:25 AM / 10 years ago

Africa's Grand Inga could be online by 2025: official

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Grand Inga hydroelectric project, which could dwarf China’s Three Gorges Dam, could be onstream by 2025, an official said on Wednesday.

“Great Inga offers cheap energy costs, great internal rate of returns, and reduced environmental impact ... but realistically, it cannot be online before 2025,” Latsoucabe Fall, the World Energy Council’s manager for Africa, said.

Still in the feasibility stages, the Grand Inga, expected to

generate 40,000 megawatts, could be a long-term solution to Africa’s power problems, but investors have held back due to political risk and its $80 billion price tag.

Fall said rising power demand on the continent, estimated to triple by 2035, would justify the need for cheaper and environmentally friendly hydro power.

For now, the DRC, Angola, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana are working on building Inga 3, expected to generate 4,300 MW and link up with the southern African grid, but Fall said it was not likely to come onstream before 2020.

Congo’s state-owned utility SNEL said only one-third of the $6 billion required for Inga 3 had been secured, with a decision on how to proceed with both projects expected by year end.

Lack of funding has hindered either project happening and has also delayed the rehabilitation of Inga 1 and 2, even though annual revenues from Grand Inga are seen reaching up to $15 billion, with $3.5 billion to be paid to the DRC for water use.

Political support, transparency and cooperation between the Congolese government and countries which would eventually benefit from the power produced could help attract investments, especially in the form of public-private partnerships.

The funding gap could also be filled by the growing mining industry, Fall said, adding that miners and power companies had shown interest in co-funding the project.

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