Inga 1 (351 MW) and Inga 2 (1,424 MW) were commissioned in 1972 and 1982, respectively, as part of a failed industrial development scheme under then-Zaïre’s dictator, Sese Sekko Mobutu. The two dams currently operate at around 50% capacity because they never received maintenance for many years. When Inga 2 was built, a 1,770 km transmission line, known today as the Inga-Kolwezi line, was also built to transport power to the state-owned copper mines in the Katanga province, bypassing nearly every town and community underneath. The two dams, combined with the Inga-Kolwezi line, contributed heavily to the country’s spiraling debt crisis. These projects are considered by many to be amongst Congo’s biggest white elephants.
Besides its debt legacy, the dams have left a sorrowful social legacy. The government has never fulfilled its obligations to compensate communities originally displaced by Inga 1 and 2 Dams. Read more about Inga’s communities.
Rehabiliation of Inga 1 and Inga 2 Dams, Inga-Kolwezi Transmission Line
Rehabilitation works has met years of delay regardless of approved financing. Since 2002, the World Bank has led efforts to rehabilitate DRC’s electricity sector through three projects (PMEDE, SAMP APL 1, and EMRRP). There has also been a direct agreement between MAgEnergy and the Government of the DRC towards rehabilitating Inga 2. However, a severe blockage at the intake canal to Inga I and 2’s shared reservoir limit the dams from producig just 70% of the their installed capacity. At the time of writing the reservoir was being dredged.
By June 2013, 3 out of 6 turbines in Inga I had been rehabilitated and one had been replaced. The other two turbines were scheduled for completion by the end of 2013. In Inga 2, five (5) out of the 8 turbines were working. The other three are to be refurbished by the end of 2015.
World Bank-led Rehab
The PMEDE is the major project to rehabilitate Inga I and 2 dams. In 2003, the World Bank calculated that the DRC power grid including the dams and transmission line could be rehabilitated for less than $200 million and completed by 2007. However, implementation fell behind schedule because the Bank overlooked the extent of degradation of the dams, transmission line and other critical infrastructure in their original assessment. In 2007 the PMEDE had a total estimated cost of $500 million. The Bank approved a $297 million project to fully rehabilitate the dams. Additional financing was secured from the African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank. In 2011, very little progress had been made and additional cost overruns identified. As a result, the Bank approved an additional $283 million for the rehabilitation and brought in another $146 million from the African Development Bank, German Agency KfW and electricity utility SNEL. This brings the total revised costs for Inga Dams’ rehabilitation to $883 million, and the rehabilitation is not expected to be completed until 2015.
In November 2003, the World Bank approved $178.6 million in financing towards rehabilitation of the 1,725 kilometre Inga-Kolwezi transmission line under the first phase of a regional project known as the Southern Africa Power Market Adaptable Phase Loan (SAPM APL 1). However, the cost for rehabilitating this transmission line has continued to mount. Due to ongoing problems, delays and ballooning costs, two additional financing loans have since been granted, resulting in a total of $ 560 million in investment from the World Bank and $77.5 million from the European Investment Bank. In total, the project costs for rehabilitating the dams and transmission lines have skyrocketed to $1.2 billion over the past ten years and neither project is close to being finished.
MagEnergy’s IPP Deal
In 2005, MagEnergy signed a direct contract with SNEL to rehabilitate part of Inga 2 Dam. The agreement marks the first foreign direct investment received by SNEL and makes MagEnergy the first independent power producer (IPP) in DRC. MagEnergy has completed rehabilitation on 5 turbines. The complete rehabilitation of 3 turbines are to be refurbished by the end of 2015. MagENergy seeks to use Inga 2 to power its smelter, chipping mill, and other resource industries located at Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo.