Discussion on power in the DRC

The DRC has no power.

Well, it does, but it is not using it.

The country’s local utility, Société Nationale d’Electricité or SNEL, runs on hydropower but around 81% of the population doesn’t have any! (Source: Trade.gov (US)) Note : The new website of the utility is surprisingly quite nice!

“The DRC has immense and varied energy potential, consisting of non-renewable resources, including oil, natural gas, and uranium, as well as renewable energy sources, including hydroelectric, biomass, solar, and geothermal power.  Hydroelectric power accounts for 96 percent of domestic power generation, the bulk of which is generated by the Inga I and Inga II dams located in Kongo Central province.  Inga I and II have an installed capacity of 1,775 megawatts„ and the government is supporting maintenance to bring Inga back to full capacity. 

Despite millions of dollars of donor funding, according to the World Bank only 19 percent of the DRC’s 84 million people have access to electricity – about 41 percent in urban areas and one percent in rural areas.  Lack of access to modern electricity services impairs the health, education, and income-generating potential of millions of Congolese people.  Most power generation development is directed and funded by mining companies seeking to power their facilities. ” Trade.gov (US) (2021)

Here is their promotional video in English. It is very informative and well made! Please watch it.

The reality is that the grid is very unstable.

If you do get power, it is of poor quality and can fry your appliances if you don’t have a voltage regulator that keeps the incoming voltage at 220 V instead of a variation from 120 to 300 v.

It can sometimes occur in a split second!

The SNEL website has had a face lift!

Most urban households just use charcoal to cook from trees that have been cut down in the surrounding tropical forests.

Diesel power

Some companies sell backup diesel generators :

Since 1997, Unicompex sell, install and support diesel generator installations by FG Wilson (UK) (Unicompex.blog)
Chanimetal were a purely boat making business but have diversified to heavy machinery and diesel generators (Dagartech).

Solar power (small scale)

Some sell, install and maintain solar panels like:

“Forced to flee their home village of Baraka in South Kivu during the Congolese civil war, our co-founders Washikala Malango and Iongwa Mashangao share a remarkable journey” Read about it here (©Altech 2022)
Dev Solaire are based in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa. They have a good range of products (Victron Energy inverters) and a competent team of engineers and managers to support your solar projects. ©Dev Solaire 2022. Dev Solaire website.
GoShop have a solid presence in the east of the DRC. They are expanding into Kinshasa and other provinces. They also do hydro microgrid. (GoShop Website). Read their brochure here (18 mb). They also represent Victron Energy inverters as well as Teksan (Turkey) diesel generators.

Solar power (industrial scale)

Some build and maintain solar plants or microgrids with backup diesel generators like:

“The Kananga solar photovoltaic power plant. Cost: 5.8 million USD, total power of the hybrid power plant: 3.25 MW. the power of the solar photovoltaic power plant: 1 MWp, the power of the thermal power plant: 2.25 MW, number of diesel generators in the thermal power plant: 3, the power of each generator: 750 kW and the consumption of a diesel generator: 90 litres/hour” (EnRDC, 2022)
Gommyr have operated as project developers and managers whilst also undertaking all engineering design for eStreet. Refurbishment and construction begins in October 2021 in preparation for the implementation of a 600kW solar PV system with lithium-ion batteries and supporting gensets. ©Gommyr (2022).

Hydro power

Some companies buy and operate hydroelectric dams like:

“North Kivu: the population of Beni criticise the high cost of electricity by ENK” ©Infocongo (2020)

ENK video report on the national channel, RTNC

3rd North Kivu hydro power project by ENK/STS (Les Echos)

The work on the Talihya River should lead to the start of production of a 12 MW hydroelectric plant by the end of the year. Les Echos (2022)

“The Belgians who took over the North Kivu electrification projects originally deployed by EBI (Elicio) point out that they have repaid Nethys the 3.5 million euros in debts they incurred during the takeover assets in 2019. They did it 5 months ahead of schedule, they say, while at Nethys, the interim CEO Renaud Witmeur cannot confirm this. In Congo, their first plant supplies 10,000 meters and 50,000 customers, while their second plant should go into production by the end of the year. They are actively preparing a third project in Bunia, in the province of Ituri.” LesEcho.be

Virunga Energies

“Virunga Energies SAU was founded in 2013 as a subsidiary of Virunga Foundation, the foundation that manages Virunga National Park. It produces, distributes and markets clean and renewable hydroelectric energy that facilitates socio-economic development in the areas surrounding Virunga National Park.

Virunga Energies is a commercial business with a social mission. Its revenues allow it to cover its operational and maintenance costs, conduct its public service missions (most notably public street lighting), increase its supply and widen the electric grid. Over $120m have been invested since 2013. As a pioneer of a new energy model, the company was the first in eastern DRC to benefit from a loan from an investment bank.

Today, Virunga Energies is active in the territories of Beni, Lubero, Rutshuru, Nyiragongo and in Goma city.

Throughout its existence, Virunga Energies has benefited from financial support from the European Union, The Schmidt Family Foundation, The World We Want and British International Investment.” Virunga website accessed on 19/10/2022.

Virunga Energies provides clean, reliable, and affordable electricity to local communities living in and around Virunga National Park through its run-of-river hydropower plants. Read about it here (About us page).

Megaprojects for mining or large applications

There may be many more hydropower projects in the pipeline including the Inga 3 “Grand Inga” dam that has been delayed for years.

Some have already started like Kipay Energy (LinkedIn page) by the ex-SNEL director, Eric Munga. See the ZoomEco.cd article.

“The US$80 billion Grand Inga Dam project, including transmission lines to send electricity across Africa and Europe, is touted as having the potential to supply green electricity to the entire sub-Saharan region.” ©AllAfrica.com (07/10/2022 Article)
Kipay Energie & Investments, with the support of its partner Power China, has just launched construction work on the Sombwe hydroelectric power plant. The ceremony took place this Saturday, November 23, 2019 in Kalera Gare, a village located more than 300 km from Lubumbashi. ZoomEco (2019)

See pictures and videos below of the various energy projects mentioned above.

Nuru (Swahili for “light”) is a company dedicated to enhancing connectivity in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nuru deployed Congo’s first solar-based mini-grid in 2017 and has a 1.3MW solar hybrid site in Goma, the largest off-grid mini-grid in sub-Saharan Africa. Another solar hybrid site in Beni and two in the oriental province (Tadu & Faradje). Nuru was first established under the name Kivu Green Energy in August 2015. We changed our name in September 2019 to reflect our expansion beyond the Kivu regions into other parts of DRC. ©Nuru.cd (2022)
PowerGen will build a solar plant in Kasai (2022).

Know of other power projects in the DRC? Send me an e-mail using the contact form!

I’m in power generation and I’m always interested in learning about projects in the DRC.

One response to “Discussion on power in the DRC”

  1. […] To read a quick guide on exciting power sector companies and projects, we recommend you read this blog post by Khalid Emilio Noorani: “A discussion on power in the DRC“. […]

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