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Africa bank allots funds to study expanding DR Congo's Inga

The African Development Fund, a unit of the African Development Bank (AfDB), has approved a grant of 9.5 million units of account (US$15.7 million) to study optimal development of the Inga hydroelectric complex in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

AfDB said the study should begin in 2008 following procurement of consultant services. It is to explore the feasibility of optimal development of the hydroelectric potential, estimated at 40,000 MW, of the Inga site on the Congo River. (HNN 4/24/08) It also will include study of construction of high-voltage transmission lines to deliver Inga hydropower to neighboring countries and throughout Africa.

The two-year study is to be supervised by DRC utility Societe Nationale d'Electricite with assistance from African power pools. AfDB said a steering committee will be established including ministries and electricity companies from the DRC and interconnecting countries, as well as the African Union Commission, New Partnership for Africa's Development, regional economic communities, the African Energy Commission, and power pools.

A financier's conference was held April 21-22 in London for Inga's first new development, the proposed 4,300-MW Inga 3 hydro project.

Director Gilbert Mbesherubusa of AfDB's Infrastructure Department said May 8 that, despite its size, Inga is a renewable energy project that can be developed sustainably to meet pressing development needs in Africa.

"Since Inga is a hydroelectric project, it is all the more relevant in the struggle against climate change," Mbesherubusa said. "Even ecology groups recognize this, and have changed their attitude toward such projects."

The official said environmental and social studies would facilitate project implementation, taking into account the environmental and social concerns of affected populations.

AfDB already is participating in rehabilitation of existing hydro plants at Inga with a US$58 million grant. DRC is proceeding with rehabilitation of the 350-MW Inga 1 and 1,424-MW Inga 2 projects, which only produce a total of 500 MW due to lack of maintenance.

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