Energy Capital & Power

Beyond Fossil Fuels: A look at the Republic of the Congo’s Hydropower Potential

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Joining global efforts to find clean energy solutions, the Republic of Congo is focused on the development of its hydropower potential. The country is home to the Congo River system, which also runs through its larger neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Some estimates put the Congo River’s hydroelectric potential at 100,000 MW, and if properly exploited, could generate enough clean energy for the whole continent.1 While plans are currently underway in DRC to build what is believed will be the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, Inga III, part of the larger Grand Inga project, Brazzaville has also launched feasibility studies in Sounda, Loufoulakari, Mourala, and Kouembali, which have a hydroelectric potential of 600MW, 50MW, 101 MW, and 150 MW respectively.

Smaller in scale, these studies reflect the Congo’s aspirations to rely on its own hydropower potential rather than on its neighbor’s. Indeed, from 2011 onwards, Brazzaville reduced hydroelectric power importation from DRC’s Inga dam by 90%. Although only the Sounda project is going forward at this time, the government has expressed interest in working on a development plan for hydroelectric dams in Kouembali and Mourala.

The Congolese government has stated that China Railways 20 will be responsible for the construction of the Sounda dam, situated in the district of Kakamoeka, near Pointe-Noire. 23 In addition, the government announced the start of the construction of the Chollet dam, on the Dja river at the Cameroon-Congo border. The project is said to have a potential capacity of 600 MW.

The Congo currently operates four hydroelectric dams: Djoué, Moukoukoulou, Imboulou, and recently the inaugurated Liouesso. In service since 1953, the Djoué dam is the country’s oldest. It has the capacity to produce 19 MW of hydroelectric power, however, it’s currently under renovation. Built in the 1970s, Moukouloukou has a capacity of 74 MW. The Imboulou dam is situated 200 km north of Brazzaville and has a capacity of 120 MW, making it the country’s largest hydroelectric station. While these dams have been instrumental in providing local populations and industries with electricity, they have largely been underperforming due in part to seasonal low water periods.

Estimates put the Republic of the Congo’s hydropower potential at 3,942 MW, but only a small fraction is taken advantage of. Recent steps taken by the government to diversify the country’s energy mix and provide cleaner electricity aims to increase the population’s access to electricity, which only about 60% have access to, and to strengthen its power grid to support local industries. By doing so, the Congo works toward ensuring increased reliability on the country’s infrastructure and stable energy supply with a low-cost, efficient, and renewable energy solution, creating both new employment and investment opportunities. 

Energy Capital & Power will launch Congo-Brazzaville’s first ever energy sector specific report, Africa Energy Series: Congo-Brazzaville 2022, in the second quarter of 2022, which will outline the country’s COVID-19 recovery strategy and unpack its ambitious plans for the development of its hydrocarbons industry including natural gas development; environmental and social governance; and the energy transition.

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Damon Biesold

Damon Biesold

Damon Biesold is ECP’s Congo Field Editor, where he produces the country’s first Africa Energy Series report due to be published in early 2022. Damon has experience working in sub-Saharan Africa and writes about the energy sector in the Republic of Congo. He recently obtained his MA in National Security Studies.