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200,000 MW hydro to light Africa's future - a controversy?

Within the last ten years the World Bank has invested an estimate of US$ 550 million annually in hydro projects alongside with the African Development Bank's Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) prioritising investment into nine key projects within strategic African regions.
Grand Inga controversy

Included in the nine key priority projects by PIDA, controversy has been created in Central Africa around the world’s largest hydro schemes the Grand Inga and Inga III (43.5 MW combined) in DRC. The Minister of Water Resources and Electricity of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bruno Kapandji Kalala stated that, "Inga III project is moving forward; signing a partnership agreement with South Africa late last year was one of its initial stages of development. The Inga III will generate 4,200 MW, being built onto one of the world's largest waterfalls, Inga Falls, where the Congo River drops almost a hundred meters and flows at an enormous speed of 43 cubic meters per second." Minister Kapandji Kalala is scheduled to present further insights into the current developments of the Grand Inga and Inga III at the Clean Power Africa conference on 13 May 2014 in Cape Town.

Large scale hydro schemes in Africa are being highly criticised by critics on the efficiency of being a clean power source; as a renewable option. According to an online article published by Yale, Prime Minister of Ethiopia defends the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (6,000 MW) project against Western criticism in 2011 by saying: "We want our people to have a modern life and won't allow [them] to be a case study of ancient living for scientists and researchers." The article further adds that critics say giant hydro schemes are the wrong kind of development for a largely rural continent.

"A large scale hydro plant requires significant civil works, investments, which sometimes strain the realisation of the project. Opposed to mini-micro-small hydro schemes, such configuration is not financially intense, with short duration less than two years, environmentally friendly, with minor infrastructural needs and social commitment" says Italian power solution company Marelli Motori, technical director, Gianluca Stanic, who is looking forward to debating this topic at the forthcoming Clean Power Africa conference.

As one might agree or disagree with the statements being made by industry specialists, the fact is that large hydro engineers such as Voith are turning in favour of innovating technologies for small scale hydro. Leaving us to answer the question; is large scale hydro in Africa a realistic clean power solution? Will there be innovative technology to sustain large scale hydro plants in the long term?

Wim Jonker Klunne, Senior Researcher Renewable Energy, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) from South Africa, invites technical partners, hydro engineers, consultants and investors to join the debate that will address these issues and challenges in finding the resolutions to drive the sector beyond its unexploited potentials. A dedicated focus day will deliver exclusive advice from investors on clean power project progression; no project will be too small, allowing you to access and discover new market ventures on the 12 May 2014 at Clean Power Africa co-located with African Utility Week. Clean Power Africa and African Utility Week will continue to provide you with the opportunity to engage first-hand on a 2-day international product showcase presented by hydro engineers and power solution specialists such as Aurecon, GIBB, Gilkes, Marelli Motori and many more giving their core product strategies in Cape Town on the 13 - 14 May 2014 at CTICC.

Additional information: More info on Clean Power Africa
News date: 01/02/2014

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