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Work on 40,000-MW Grand Inga to begin in October 2015, Congo says

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Officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are hoping to lay the first foundation stone for the 40,000-MW Grand Inga hydropower project in October 2015, HydroWorld.com has learned.

The announcement follows a meeting of Congo and South Africa officials in Paris this past week, during which the parties discussed how Grand Inga's first phase -- the 4,800-MW Inga 3 -- will be implemented.

Per negotiations that began earlier this year, South Africa will purchase 2,500 MW of Inga 3's capacity.

"We have affirmed our commitment to the project by already provisioning for this purchase in our budgetary plan," said South Africa Ministry of Energy official Garrith Bezuidenhoudt.

Funding for the Grand Inga project is coming from a number of sources, including the African Development Bank, World Bank, French Development Agency, European Investment Bank and Development Bank of South Africa.

A developer has yet to be selected, though three are currently being considered. Included are the Sinohydro and Three Gorges Corporation from China; Actividades de Construccion y Servicios, comprised of Eurofinsa and AEE from Spain; and one including Korea's Daewoo-Posco and Canada's SNC Lavalin.

"The question of financing is a major issue in the selection process," African Development Bank official Hel Cheikhrouhou said. "It is the public/private financing solutions which will be vital for the success of the project."

If development goes as planned, work on the Inga 3's first phase will begin in 2015. This portion, called the Inga 3 Low-Head, will have a capacity of 1,800 MW and does not require damming of the Congo River. The next phase -- called the Inga 3 High-Head, will add an additional 3,000 MW and includes construction of the Grand Inga Dam.

Five other hydropower plants will then be built on the same dam, eventually raising its cumulative capacity to 40,000 MW. If completed, Grand Inga would surpass China's Three Gorges hydroelectric project as the world's largest.

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