South Africa is seeking to increase the amount of electricity it plans to secure from a major power plant that is under construction in the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC), Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has hinted.
Initially, South Africa had agreed to buy 2,500 megawatts from the Inga 3 dam but now wants to double the amount according to a letter seen by Bloomberg.
“I wish to indicate South Africa’s interest to procure additional capacity of 2,500 megawatts over and above that which was committed under the treaty,” Radebe said in a Dec. 19 letter to Bruno Kapandji, who heads Congo’s Agency for the Development and Promotion of Grand Inga Dam.
In October last year, DRC signed a deal worth $14 billion with a consortium of Chinese and European companies to move forward with the Inga 3 project, expected to be Africa’s largest hydropower plant.
The Chinese consortium is led by China Three Gorges, alongside a European consortium, led by Actividades de Construcción y Servicios (ACS) of Spain.
The Inga 3 project is expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of power when completed and will be the largest hydropower project on the continent.
The plant is expected to begin operations by the end of 2020.
The announcement comes at a time when state power firm Eskom is struggling with debts accrued from building and maintaining new power plants.
The firm has proposed that it be allowed to raise tariffs by 15 percent annually for three years to help it bring its debt under control, but Attard Montalto sees it as unlikely that South Africa’s power regulator will grant its request because it abides by a strict formula when determining how costs should be allowed to feed into prices.
South Africa’s parliamentary energy committee in November cast doubt on the wisdom of relying on the Congolese project. The committee wanted an alternative be sought incase Inga 3 project fails to go online.
The project has been frequently hit by delays due to financial constraint. Construction of the project is expected to cost $13.9 billion to complete.
Known for its abidance of copper and cobalt, DRC continue to grapple with energy deficit that has seriously undermined its mining industry. Also only about 15 percent of Congo’s population has electricity.