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!
Most urban households just use charcoal to cook from trees that have been cut down in the surrounding tropical forests.
Some companies sell backup diesel generators :
- Unicompex Congo (FG Wilson but owned by Caterpillar Northern Ireland from the UK, made in China) (Disclaimer : I work there and it is my father’s business)
- Tractafric (Caterpillar Electric Power from the US, made in China)
- Prodimpex (Visa, made in Italy)
- SOGEAC (Some assembled in DRC)
- USCT (UPG)
- GoShop (Teksan, made in China/Turkey)
- BIA (Cummins)
- Congo Energy (Pramac from Italy)
- Chanimetal (Dagartech made in Spain)
Solar power (small scale)
Some sell, install and maintain solar panels like:
Solar power (industrial scale)
Some build and maintain solar plants or microgrids with backup diesel generators like:
- Nuru.cd (not to be confused with Nuru Energy) in Goma (they used Tesla batteries!)
- PowerGen in Kasai (Article)
- ENERKAC in Kananga (reports (2016 Radio Okapi, 2022 Restart of ENERKAC, 2022 Radio Okapi) claim that the plant is no longer operational or viable)
- Congo Energy in Katanga
- Gommyr in the ex-province of Equateur in Mbandaka with their eStreet project
- GoShop also have a large scale division for solar projects ie the Kinkole solar plant for vaccination equipment (link)
Some companies buy and operate hydroelectric dams like:
- Energie du Nord Kivu or ENK for short (with STS) in Butembo.
- Virunga Energies in the Goma area for the Virunga park
3rd North Kivu hydro power project by ENK/STS (Les Echos)
“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 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.
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.