Power project collapses

21 May 2010

25 May 2010 | Neil Oelofse

A joint venture by five African nations to develop a multibillion dollar hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo has collapsed, hitting electricity buyers in southern Africa.

According to Bloomberg, the Western Power Corridor venture envisaged delivering 2,000mW’s of power to both Congo and South Africa, and another 1000mW to be divided between Botswana, Namibia and Angola.

However, Congo’s National Electricity Society CEO Yengo Massampu said his country had decided to pull out of the deal because it wanted to retain more of the electricity produced for its own use.

Hydro power is the cheapest source of energy in Africa, East African procurement consultant Muhimbise Andrew told SM, and the project was set to deliver energy for R.040 (US$0.05)/kW, about 260 per cent cheaper than the average R1.40 (US$0.18)/kW.

The collapse of the project is a huge blow to the other countries involved as it will affect their economic competitiveness, Andrew believes. “No doubt this is a lost opportunity in terms of the cheapest available environmentally friendly source of energy, considering rising costs and power rationing. Such a project, if successful, could have had an ‘internet-type’ impact on these southern African nations, with the ripples felt across sub-Saharan Africa.”

Meanwhile, Namibia and Angola are moving ahead with plans to build a R842.2 million (US$107.7 million) hydropower plant on the Kunene River, scheduled for completion by 2017.

Environmental and feasibility studies on the 400-mW project should be ready before the end of this year, said Paulinus Shilamba, head of NamPower, Namibia’s national power utility.

The country’s demand for power is 
expected to more than triple by 2030 as 
new mining operations come on stream, 
while Angola relies heavily on hydroelectric power for its energy needs and is rebuilding dams that were damaged during its 27-year 
civil war.

Last year, NamPower set out to establish emergency electrical power capacity at Walvis Bay. Following a public tender notice in March 2009, NamPower carried out a competitive tendering process and awarded the contract valued at R257.8 million (US$33 million), to Barloworld Namibia.

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