The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has announced that the construction on the $12bn Inga 3 hydroelectric dam could begin by the end of next year.
"We are in the process of selecting the principal project partners. The ideal would be to begin works by the end of 2016 or the start of 2017," DRC prime minister Matata Ponyo told Bloomberg last week.
The dam is to be the first in a series of barrages across the lower Congo river that could eventually generate 50GW of electricity, greater than the entire generating capacity of South Africa.
Inga 3 itself is expected to have a generating capacity of 4.8GW.
The government had originally hoped to start construction by October 2015, but the selection process has faced delays.
Three consortiums are in the race to build Inga 3: China Three Gorges Corp and Sinohydro Corp; Posco and Daewoo of South Korea in partnership with Canada’s SNC-Lavalin; and Spain’s ACS and Eurofinsa.
A map of the lower Congo, showing the sites of the Grand Inga’s barrages (Wikimedia Commons)
Much of the electricity produced will be sold to South Africa, which has built the Inga dams into its energy plans.
According to the World Bank, South African power company Eskom will buy 2.5GW from Inga 3, the Congolese mining industry will buy 1.3GW and the remainder will go to the DRC’s state utility, SNEL, which will use it to provide power to about 7 million people in the Kinshasa city-region.
The aim is to provide all unmet electricity needs there by 2025.
The present capacity of the DRC is 2.5GW, of which less is transmitted to consumers owing to the poor condition of the country’s distribution infrastructure.