To investigate the hydroelectric potential of the Congo River, which is the world’s second largest river after the Amazon.
You cannot industrialize without sufficient electricity. You cannot do any of the basic things required for a modern economy without reliable energy. There’s just no way that we can compete in any sort of manner with the world.
Developing energy infrastructure on the continent is one of the key growth strategies identified for Africa since consistent power supply is an instrumental tool to attract much needed foreign direct investments. Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country endowed with vast potential in hydro power, is tipped to become a central source of electricity for the entire continent.
In theory, the generation capacity of Grand Inga represents under half of the Potential Power of the Congo River, which could potentially generate 100,000 MW.
The rewards can be great, with returns from foreign investment on the continent averaging 30 per cent, according to the UN Conference on Trade & Development.
Congo DR (DRC), a country endowed with vast potential in hydro power, is tipped to become a central source of electricity for the entire continent.
Do investors have the appetite for a project of this scale in a region notorious for its project finance problems?
The biggest issue for the prospective hydro power investor is that projects require a large outlay and a long wait for any return. The cost, estimated at around $2 billion to build a 1,000 MW hydro electric plant, tends to prove prohibitive for local investors, but the wait, which may be over 15 years, could also be a barrier to participation from international financiers.
There are other African countries with significant hydroelectric potential and more developed democracies. Nigeria and Cameroon both have over 20,000MW of untapped power potential, while Angola has over 18,000MW.
Arguably, risk perceptions for African investments tend to be more severe than the reality.
At present the river potential is less than 2,000MW, at 40% capacity (800 MW) from two decaying hydro dams built in the seventies and eighties with most of the electricity reserved for the mines in the south over 1700 km away.
Africa’s poverty and economic stagnation is regarded as one of the greatest tragedies of our time. Three decades of stagnant growth are viewed as one of the underlying causes of the continent’s distress.
With nearly one billion people, Africa accounts for over a sixth of the world’s population, but generates only 4% of global electricity.
Despite the huge power supplies that Inga could generate, most Africans still live too far from national grids to take advantage of a big, centralized project in a faraway country. Building necessary distribution systems to make use of the dam’s electricity would be cost-prohibitive to say the least. If built, the dam will power big mines and industries, not small businesses, homes and hospitals.
Grand Inga doesn’t have much of a chance of “lighting up Africa,” much less lighting up Congo.
The biggest obstacle to the project succeeding in a way that benefits ordinary Africans is corruption. Decades of plundering state coffers and natural resources in DR Congo have institutionalized corruption. Public officials systematically misuse their offices for private gain. In the mining sector alone, at least $200 million of annual taxes go uncollected due to illicit negotiations and corrupt oversight.
In 2008, DR Congo’s state power utility had two of SNEL’s top directors interrogated after the disappearance of $6.5 million earmarked for Inga 2 rehabilitation. SNEL’s revenues reportedly plunged by 30% thereafter.
High-level corruption is still endemic. A UN panel stated that 60–80 per cent of customs revenue was embezzled. The Congo DR ranked 156 in Transparency International’s 2006 list of the most corrupt countries. Reversing corruption and ensuring public accountability demands the strengthening of the judicial system.
The natural riches have attracted rapacious adventurers, unscrupulous corporations, vicious warlords and corrupt governments, and divided the population between competing ethnic groups.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is slowly recovering from a conflict known as Africa’s first world war, which led to the loss of some five million lives between 1994 and 2003, but many eastern areas are still plagued by violence as various rebel groups continue to operate there.
This vast country has hardly any roads or railways, while the health and education systems lie in ruins.
Grand Illusions for African Energy
A smaller Inga III scheme is widely seen as a test run for Grand Inga. Inga III is on the planning board and it would generate 4,800 megawatts (MW). Inga III will require $12 billion in total, with dam construction costs estimated at 8.5 billion dollars of this amount. The project will take six years to complete.
“This project may be too risky because of costs and time” , a senior African Development Bank (AfDB) official said.
There are a lot of factors that are not the ideal starting point for multi-billion dollar project with a long investment horizon:
- Rampant corruption
- Lack of credible institutions
- Lack of effective control/power of all parts of the country
- Unstable political situation in the DRC
- Risks in payments for the electricity, operation and maintenance of the hydro plants, sabotage, confiscation, nationalization and inability to repay debt
- Risks of imposition of very high tariffs and incompetent maintenance
In light of the above discussion and the facts presented one is persuaded to agree that the Grand Inga is ‘too big to build’, and in the same breath one is also persuaded to add that ‘it is too risky to build’.
The Study Area of the Lower Congo River
The lower Congo is characterized by the narrowing of the river. Just downstream are the first of 30 waterfalls as the river continues to flow towards Matadi extending for some 60 km. Here, the Congo’s estuary begins in a narrow channel only 0.65 km to 1.6km. The river here is much deeper and its current is fast – ideal for helical turbine construction:
By comparison, water flows through the 300m wide bottleneck at a speed of up to 6.5m/sec (almost 13 knots) off South Korea. They are planning a permanent helical turbine array intended to generate 100 MW.
- At a width of 650m, a velocity is 5.14 m/s (10 knots)
- At a width of 800m, the velocity is 4.16 m/s (8 knots)
- At a width of 1000 m, a velocity is 3.34 m/s (6.4 knots)
HUG Helical Power Cell Lines
Africa has to go beyond the single-project solution to solve the crippling energy crisis: a solution that is modular and more quickly accessible.
We use different and less expensive hydro technology, the HUG Helical Turbine. This new system is capable of hydro production in a short time unlike the large dam structures: a $2-3 million investment will add 47 HUGs of 33 MW to the power grid, which can be sold for gross revenues of $8.4 million/year. That’s an unbelievable payback period within a few years. We don’t have to wait 10 years for all this to happen!
The HUG is modular and mobile, so it can be installed in remote areas of Congo DR or any part of Africa or under developed countries. Expensive transmission lines are not required. Expensive Inverter or Converter Systems are also not required, because of the custom built HUG generators.
Democratic Republic of Congo needs the rule of law. People need protection when rights are violated, to start businesses and to find out where the money goes.
A new business needs impeccable local political contacts, or they shouldn’t even try.
“But until the DRC is stabilized, and there’s a real international effort spearheaded by African partners, it isn’t going to get off the ground.”
Albert Einstein said, “The problems in the world today are so enormous that they cannot be solved with the level of thinking that created them.“ What is really required is global thinking for most mega projects.”
A SPARK OF BETTER NEWS
By supporting hydro schemes in Africa, foreign governments and companies can claim to be both promoting development in the world’s poorer countries and trying to address climate change. Such factors may be just enough to tip the balance in favor of constructing many of the planned hydro projects across the African continent.
Big business, which for years shunned Africa, has suddenly developed a new interest, starting with the Chinese, attracted by the Rich Pickings to be had. Added to this potential income are credits, which one can receive from investing in so-called clean development projects.
It is time for the World Bank and the DRC government to embrace more feasible solutions and stop holding the Congolese population hostage to their multi-billion dollar dreams.
HUG HYDRO ELECTRICITY We have developed the Proprietary HUG, which can become the power of future technology — the vortex power of water, which increases the velocity of the flow in HUGs by four times:
KATANGA ENERGY PROBLEM SOLVED The present electric turbine systems are working at 60% efficiency. Rehabilitating these plants will cost over US$840 million.
CONGO RIVER HYDRO & IRRIGATION POTENTIAL The World Energy Council says electricity is a bridge to sustainable development and a prerequisite and cornerstone for economic progress, social development, harnessing technological progress and environmental sustainability.
AFRICAN MIDDLE CLASS A country cannot grow with only a rich class and a poor class! It is acknowledged that many living on US$2 to US$4 a day could easily slip back into poverty.
ALLEVIATING ENERGY POVERTY The poorest fifth of the world pays one-fifth of the world’s lighting bill – but receive only 0.1% of the lighting benefits
INNOVATION COMES TO AFRICA We believe that innovation in water distribution, irrigation and damless hydro projects are the solution.
NEXT6 Our Living Water Investment Plan is where African entrepreneurs can share a customized business plan with us. The Investor receives a huge social benefit of helping to support small projects.
ATLANTIC AFRICA: HYDRO & IRRIGATION
AFRICA SOUTH EAST: HYDRO & IRRIGATION
AFRICA WEST: HYDRO & IRRIGATION
AFRICA EAST: HYDRO & ELECTRICITY
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