International Rivers’ new study, “Renewable Riches,” has found that the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is endowed with abundant wind and solar potential that could transform the country’s energy sector. The report, authored by researchers affiliated with the University of California, suggests that DRC can harness its considerable renewable energy potential to power the country faster and more affordably than current planned projects like Inga 3 Dam.
The researchers found that the country’s wind and solar potential, at 85 GW, could address the country’s chronic power shortages and would far surpass the output of the planned 4.8 GW Inga 3 Dam on the Congo River. 60 GW of that energy could be installed at less than $0.07 per kWh, which makes it competitive with conventional power options.
The researchers honed in on sites that could readily feed into the national power grid, limiting their search to renewable potential located near existing and planned transmission lines. Their analysis identified the sites that could be developed sustainably, excluding forested and important biodiversity areas, populated areas, and farmland.
Wind and solar prices have dropped precipitously in recent years, while energy planners have made great strides in managing their variability. Solar and wind would be an ideal complement to the grid’s existing hydropower capacity.
The study also analyzed how South Africa could meet its future energy needs. The country has factored power imports from Inga 3 in its energy planning, but the researchers found that pursuing Inga 3 could be far more expensive for South Africa than harnessing wind and solar within the country. Already, South Africa has seen some of the world’s lowest solar and wind prices.
The DRC, where just 13.5% of citizens have access to electricity, is in desperate need of electricity and economic development. The good news is that the solution to DRC’s energy crisis already exists in the country’s abundant, accessible and quick-to-deploy wind and solar potential.