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DRC’s Luapula development timetable extended

Technical pre-feasibility studies are being carried out at five sites on the Luapula, with the award of the development contract set for 2021, following finalization of a feasibility study and environmental and social impact assessment.

The Energy Ministers of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a memorandum of understanding in Kinshasa on 5 April setting out a new timetable for the joint development of a hydropower plant on the transboundary Luapula river, with a total capacity of around 1000 MW. The MoU has set 2021 as the date for the award of the contract following finalization of the feasibility study and environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA).

Technical pre-feasibility studies for five sites on the Luapula are being carried out by EDF and South African engineering consultancy Gibb, which signed a contract in October 2017. Project-related studies are being funded through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Project Preparation and Development Facility (PPDF) (acting through its agent the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) as the fund manager) with funding from KfW and the World Bank.

An intergovernmental MoU between Zambia and DRC for the project was first signed in July 2015, with an agreement between DRC’s national power utility (SNEL) and its Zambian counterpart, Zambia Electricity Supply Corp-oration (ZESCO), signed at the same time with the aim of launching construction of the project as a joint venture by the end of 2018. The two utilities have also agreed to promote the development as a regional project as part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiative to secure funding from multilateral institutions such as AfDB and the World Bank. An initial feasibility study completed in 1977 by Watermeyer, Legge, Piésold & Uhlmann recommended the development of five sites: Mumbotuta M and CX and Mambilima I, II and V, with a combined capacity of 1188 MW. In 2001, Harza Engineering reviewed the study and recommended the development of just Mumbotuta CX and Mambilima I and II, with a total installed capacity of 627 MW, rejecting the other two on economic and environmental grounds. The EDF-Gibb study and the ESIA will look again at their conclusions but both governments continue to talk about a minimum 1000 MW scheme. Zambia and DR Congo have signed another MoU to build a 330 kV transmission line from Solwezi (Zambia) to Kolwezi (DR Congo) to promote power trading. Both countries are currently facing power shortages: Zambia generates less than 1300 MW, compared with more than 2000 MW of demand, while DR Congo generates 900 MW against demand of more than 1400 MW.