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Repercussion of Large Scale Hydro Dam Deployment: The Case of Congo Grand Inga Hydro Project

Ayobami Solomon Oyewo (), Javier Farfan (), Pasi Peltoniemi () and Christian Breyer ()
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Ayobami Solomon Oyewo: School of Energy Systems, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Skinnarilankatu 34, 53850 Lappeenranta, Finland
Javier Farfan: School of Energy Systems, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Skinnarilankatu 34, 53850 Lappeenranta, Finland
Pasi Peltoniemi: School of Energy Systems, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Skinnarilankatu 34, 53850 Lappeenranta, Finland
Christian Breyer: School of Energy Systems, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Skinnarilankatu 34, 53850 Lappeenranta, Finland

Energies, 2018, vol. 11, issue 4, 1-30

Abstract: The idea of damming the Congo River has persisted for decades. The Grand Inga project, of up to 42 GW power generation capacity, can only be justified as part of a regional energy master plan for Africa, to bridge the energy gap on the continent. Proponents of very large dams have often exaggerated potential multiple benefits of a mega dam, marginalise environmental concerns and neglect the true risk of such projects, in particular for the fragile economies of developing countries. Studies have reported the financial risks, cost overruns and schedule spills associated with very large dams. In addition, most of the dams in the region are poorly managed. Therefore, the type and scale of Grand Inga is not the solution for millions of not yet electrified people in Sub-Saharan Africa. In this research, scenarios are defined based on announced costs and expected costs. Cost escalations in the range from 5% to 100% for the Inga project in 2030 and 2040 are considered, as average cost overruns are typically at about 70% or higher for similar mega-dams. It was found that when the cost overrun for the Grand Inga project exceeds 35% and −5% for 2030 and 2040 assumptions, respectively, the project becomes economically non-beneficial. In all scenarios, Sub-Saharan Africa can mainly be powered by solar photovoltaics to cover the electricity demand and complemented by wind energy, supported by batteries. Hydropower and biomass-based electricity can serve as complementary resources. The grid frequency stability of the power system is analysed and discussed in the paper. Benefits of the Inga hydropower project have to be increasingly questioned, in particular due to the fast cost decline of solar photovoltaics and batteries.

Keywords: renewable energy; Congo River; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Grand Inga; hydropower; Sub-Saharan Africa (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q4 Q40 Q41 Q42 Q43 Q47 Q48 Q49 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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