RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHKI #0406/01 1300942
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090942Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY KINSHASA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7963
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINSHASA 000406
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG ECON EINV TRGY CG
REF: 07 KINSHASA 592
1. (U) Summary. African Ministers of Energy, civil engineers, and
banking representatives attended a meeting hosted by the World
Energy Council in London April 21-22 to discuss refurbishment of the
Inga I and Inga II dams, the development of the Inga III
hydroelectric power plant, and the larger Grand Inga project. Inga
I and Inga II are still in need of much rehabilitation, and Inga III
is the next step in the USD 80 billion Grand Inga project. The DRC
faces chronic shortages in electricity (reftel), but much of the
potential output would be exported to southern African countries.
Critics note that the vast majority of the Congolese people still
lack electricity but that the Grand Inga project will bypass their
needs. End Summary.
Potential to Light up Southern Africa
2. (U) The World Energy Council invited governments, industry
experts, and financial institutions to London for a meeting on April
21-22 to discuss the DRC Grand Inga project. The Inga
hydro-electric power projects are located on the Congo River 25
miles north of the Matadi port in Bas-Congo province. Inga I and II
power plants are working well below capacity, but the mining
industry and urban areas all over Africa are already looking to the
development of the Inga III plant to meet demand. The Grand Inga
project will take decades and approximately USD 80 billion to
complete, but it would produce up to 45,000 MW of hydroelectric
power, twice that of the Three Gorges dam in China.
3. (U) Part of the USD 80 billion Grand Inga price tag includes the
USD 5.5 billion required to build the Inga III hydroelectric
facility, and the World Bank is already funding the partial
rehabilitation of the Inga I and II plants. Inga I has six turbines
and a potential for 380 MW, but only one turbine is currently
working. Inga II has eight turbines with a potential 1,440 MW
output, but only two of those are functional. Inga III, if it is
constructed according to the parameters of Canadian SNC Lavalin's
feasibility study, will produce an estimated 4,000 MW of power by
2015 at the earliest.
4. (U) Some of the additional power produced would alleviate the
severe shortages in the DRC, but much would be sold to other
countries and exported via high-voltage transmission lines. If and
when Grand Inga is completed, it will export power to the Central
African Power Pool (CAPP), the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP),
and possibly even to Europe. The GDRC electricity parastatal, SNEL,
already exports electricity across the river to Brazzaville in the
Republic of Congo, and to the Zambian network, which reaches
Zimbabwe and South Africa.
5. (U) SNEL lacked the substantial funding necessary to rehabilitate
the existing Inga turbines until the World Bank stepped in, and the
Grand Inga project has been in the planning stages for decades.
Experts at the London meeting pointed to a confluence of relative
peace in the region and the prevailing electricity crisis in South
Africa as reason to be optimistic about near-term progress.
Another Resource Curse?
6. (U) Critics have pointed out that while the Inga I, II, and III
power plants require no additional damming, the Grand Inga project
would require a dam that would displace an estimated 8,000 people.
Some NGOs have called for more civil society participation in the
planning phases, and argue that the project's benefits will ignore
the needs the local DRC population. In fact, SNEL officials told
EconOff that they currently have no plans for any rural
7. (U) There is the possibility that the Grand Inga project could
become another white elephant for the DRC, but financial investment
in the project will ultimately depend on its profitability. For
example, the Inga III project is being financed in part by BHP
Billiton due to its plans for a new aluminum smelter in the
Bas-Congo province requiring 1,700 MW of Inga III's capacity.
Critics also caution that the Grand Inga project would adversely
affect ecosystems and potentially burden the DRC with additional
debt that it cannot afford.
8. (SBU) Comment. The Grand Inga scheme is a long way from getting
underway, but the recent upsurge in demand across African urban and
industrial centers has pushed at least Inga III into the realm of
financial consideration. The massive costs could be well worth it
KINSHASA 00000406 002 OF 002
if corruption and misspending do not derail the larger project.
Financial backers may have little or no interest in providing
transmission lines to the local populations until the demand of the
more profitable sectors can be met, but the GDRC needs to consider
carefully the needs of the population of Kinshasa and volatile
Bas-Congo province, as well as that of the rest of the
un-electrified DRC. End Comment.