Africa > Central Africa > Congo Kinshasa > Congo Kinshasa Energy Profile

Congo Kinshasa: Congo Kinshasa Energy Profile

2015/02/27

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), sometimes referred to as DR Congo, Congo-Kinshasa or the DRC, is a country located in central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world. With a population of over 75 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the nineteenth most populous nation in the world, the fourth most populous nation in Africa, as well as the most populous officially Francophone country. It borders the Central African Republic and South Sudan to the north; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi in the east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo, the Angolan exclave of Cabinda, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika in the east.

The country has access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly 9 km wide mouth of the Congo River which opens into the Gulf of Guinea. It has the second-highest total Christian population in Africa. The Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country and is sometimes referred to as the "African world war" because it involved nine African nations and some twenty armed groups. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continued in the east of the country in 2007. There, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world.

The war is the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people since 1998. More than 90% were not killed in combat. They died from diseases that were both preventable and treatable (malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition) aggravated by displaced populations living in unsanitary and over-crowded conditions that lacked access to shelter, water, food and medicine. Forty seven percent of those deaths were children under five. Conflict for control of the mineral wealth is behind some of the most violent atrocities.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly, in chronological order, the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Republic of the Congo, and Zaire (Zaïre in French). Though it is located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is also economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Energy sources

Total installed electricity capacity (2008): 2,475 MW
Hydro-electric: 98.7%
Non-renewables (Thermal etc.): 1.3%

Total primary energy supply (2009): 22,921 ktoe
Combustible Renewables and Waste: 93.6%
Hydroelectric: 2.9%
Petroleum Products: 2.4%
Coal: 1.3%
Natural Gas: 0.03%
Crude Oil: 0.01%
Electricity Exports: -0.3%

The DRC produces a modest amount of coal, and a very limited amount of natural gas. Hydropower resources are abundant. The main sources of hydroelectricity are the 2 Inga dams, 140 miles south-west of Kinshasa, the capital.

Despite having the potential to generate an estimated 40,000-45,000 MW per year just in hydroelectric power, estimated available capacity was 1,170 MW in 2008. Total electricity generation in 2009 was 7,830 GWh, almost entirely from hydroelectric sources.

Reliance

Oil production was estimated at 21,000 bbl/day in 2010, with consumption in the same year estimated at 13,000 bbl/day. Proven reserves are estimated at 180 million barrels, which is 24.7 years of production at the 2008 extraction rate. There is no oil refinery in the country, and as a result, all refined products including jet fuel and gasoline have to be imported. The DRC is highly dependent on imports of oil and coal. The threat of loss of supply is real since the occurrence of armed conflict and civil unrest. The eastern part of the country faces a real problem of timely supply; the cost of imports and sales of goods and services is becoming exorbitant for both importers and consumers, who operate under extremely difficult economic conditions.

The DRC is a net exporter of electricity, via a 200 kV line to Congo-Brazzaville, and a 550/220 kV line to Zambia. Total electricity exports in 2009 were 887 GWh, with 105 GWh imported to the country.

Extend network

Hydroelectricity provides more than 99% of electricity generated in DRC. More than half of the exploitable capacity is at the Hyd’Inga facility, in the west of the country. The long distance between this site and users has had a negative impact on electrification of villages and towns across the country. DRC's physical area (four times that of France) would require thousands of kilometres of electricity lines to reach users. As of 2009, approximately 11.1% of the country’s population had access to the electricity network. According to the government's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), only 13 urban areas have a haphazardly-functioning electrical grid. The power network consists of three interconnected networks in the Western, Southern and Eastern portions of the country, and a number of isolated networks where connection to the main grid was not feasible. The Southern and Western grids are themselves connected via a 1,700km HVDC line of 500 kV. The Western network is also connected to that of the Republic of Congo, from Lingwala to Mbuono, covering 14 km of 220 kV. In total, the Western grid consists of 650 km of 220 kV lines, 185.3 km of 135 kV lines, and 244.5 km of 70 kV lines. The Southern grid consists of 827 km of 220 kV lines, 1,199 km of 120 kV lines, and 144 km of 50 kV lines.

Capacity concerns

Dependence on non-renewable energy, the concentration of almost half of its hydropower at the Inga plant, and the lack of diversity of energy production, all have adverse consequences for economic development.

Current available capacity in the country is still considerably lower than total installed capacity, primarily due to rehabilitation projects on a number of hydropower stations, and ageing infrastructure. Transmission and distribution losses in the country, however, are considerably lower than a number of neighbouring nations, standing at roughly 6%, or 380 GWh, in 2009. Due to the unreliability of the national grid, approximately half of the DRC’s generation capacity is owned and operated by private companies for self-generation, one of the highest proportions in Africa. The Katanga mining region of the country suffers from frequent dropouts, due to dilapidated transmission infrastructure between it and the Inga dam complex. The financial performance of the national utility is also a cause for concern, as billing collection rates have remained around the 40% mark in recent years, and the hidden costs in power generation for the company stand at nearly 600%, due to gross financial inefficiencies.

Renewable energy

Solar energy
The DRC is in a very high level sun belt, with insolation values of between 3.25 and 6.0 kWh/m2/day. This makes installation of photovoltaic systems, as well as use of thermal solar systems, viable throughout the DRC. Currently there are 836 solar systems, with a total power of 83 kW, located in: Equateur (167), Katanga (159), Nord-Kivu (170), the two Kasaï provinces (170), and Bas-Congo (170). There is also the 148 Caritas network system, with a total power of 6.31 kW.

Wind energy
In some areas, wind speed is equal to or greater than 1.4 m/s, (1.5 m/s at Matadi, 1.7 m/s at à Gimbi and 1.8 m/s at Kalemie and Goma). However, wind energy is not used in DRC, with the exception of a few pilot facilities, or in isolated cases where the energy is used to supply pumps and lighting. One particular hotspot in the country has been identified, at Ugoma, where wind speeds are in the 6-6.6 m/s range. Due to the country’s vast land area, an estimated total potential for wind energy of 77,380 MW, or 102 TWh exists. However, it is unclear what proportion of this potential is deemed economically feasible.

Biomass energy
In terms of tranditional fuel woods, the DRC has around 125 million hectares of forest, with the wood potential estimated at 12.5 billion m3 i.e., 100 m3 of wood per hectare, and annual production is 2 m3/ha. Firewood and charcoal account for the majority of primary energy consumption. However, these fuels waste limited local wood resources, as well as generating considerable pollutants that affect users' health.

Biogas production from plant and animal wastes also holds a significant potential in the DRC. Barriers to development are:
-the high cost of digesters in relation to average incomes,
-the lack of training of users and maintenance staff.

There are estimated methane reserves of 50 billion m3 at Lake Kivu, which have been investigated for exploitation by numerous parties.

Biofuels
The country’s potential for biofuel production is vast. However, experiments at the Kiliba molasses distillery suffered the effects of the war. The work has stopped, and there is no indication of it recommencing.

Geothermal energy
There is huge geothermal potential in the east of DRC consisting of volcanoes and active geothermal sites, but this is hardly exploited. Hot spring temperatures range from 35 to 90ºC, with flow rate averages ranging from 11 to 162 litres/sec.

Hydropower
DRC has large hydroelectric resources, estimated at 774 GWh, i.e. 66% of central Africa's potential, 35% of the continent's potential and 8% of world annual potential. This corresponds to a minimum exploitable power capacity of 88,400 MW. A truly vast potential exists for development of further hydroelectric resources, and estimates put potential hydropower export capacity at 51.9 TWh/year, which would create revenues for the country of over 6% of current GDP.

Energy efficiency

The residential sector contributes most to final energy demand, as in many African countries, due to the high proportion of biomass consumed for cooking and lighting. The vast majority (over 95%) of the population continue to use traditional biomass fuels for domestic energy needs. Primary energy consumption per capita stands at 0.35 toe. The residential sector contributed most to final energy demand in 2009, with approximately 75%, and 78% of the country’s biomass consumption. The industrial sector is the other major energy consuming sector in the country, with all other sectors (transport, public service etc.) contributing just 2.4% to total final energy demand. Increased access to electricity would reduce dependence on biomass and reduce consumption. The thermodynamic efficiency of charcoal-production equipment could also be increased.  Electricity use per capita in 2009 was 101 kWh, below the regional average.

Ownership

Electricity market
The Société National d'Electricité (SNEL, http://www.snel.cd/) is the state-owned organisation responsible for electricity generation and supply. The company reports to the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Hydrocarbons.

Liquid fuels and gas market
A new state company, La Congolaise des Hydrocarbures (Cohydro) was formed in 1999 to take responsibility for all activities related to the oil sector, from exploration and production to refining. The storage, handling and distribution of refined petroleum products is the responsibility of the Services des Enterprises Pétrolières Congolaises (SEP-CONGO), a semi-public company, subject to private law.

Various foreign companies operate in partnership with the government in the upstream oil sector. The most prominent offshore consortium consists of Perenco (UK), Teikoku Oil (Japan), and Cohydro, currently operating three concenssions. In April 2009, Tullow Oil (UK) and its partner Heritage Oil (Canada) won back rights to explore for oil. Surestream Petroleum (UK), Energulf Resources (US), ENI (Italy), and SOCO (UK) also have oil operations. The Ministry of Mines and Energy is updating petroleum legislature to supervise and control the awarding of exploration permits and production concessions. Five oil companies market fuel and lubricants in the DRC. The government controls the prices of petroleum products. Annual petroleum tax revenue provides nearly 50 percent of the Government’s indirect tax revenue.

Competition

SNEL is a vertically-integrated monopoly electricity production and distribution utility, and reports to the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Hydrocarbons. In 2001, the government invited international tenders for the privatisation of SNEL, but privatisation is still seen as unlikely, primarily due to the extensive damage inflicted on the SNEL’s infrastructure during the war.

Cohydro is a state-owned and funded vertically-integrated company. SEP-CONGO is owned by both public and private parties.

Energy framework

The DRC's energy policy is based on:

  • alleviating poverty and illiteracy;
  • developing projects that integrate rural areas and economically viable regions (including the design of micro or mini electricity power plants not exceeding 20 MW);
  • implementing major industrial projects that demand large amounts of electricity; and,
  • constructing hydroelectric plants, with the focus initially on isolated grids, which will later be interconnected.


The development programme includes the following actions to be implemented by 2030:

  • hydroelectricity and other renewables via projects for electrification of the DRC's regions. Hundreds of sites have been identified, of which 55 could be developed in the mid-term at a cost of US$647.3 million.
  • the start of a two-part rural electrification programme,
  • research, development, pilot projects and demonstration centres,
  • development of lowest cost electrical energy supply installations,
  • development of the Inga hydropower site,
  • institutional development, especially concering an independent regulating agency, an energy management unit, and an energy price policy.


The European Union Energy Initiative Partnership Dialogue Facility (EUEI-PDF) through 2008 and 2009 supported the Ministry of Energy in creating an Energy Sector Policy Letter, focusing on separating the functions of the state and encouraging private-sector participation in the energy sector, as well as pragmatic service expansion and regional integration of energy networks. This was supported by an Electricity Code, proposing liberalisation of the electricity sector, and creating free and fair codes of competition, protecting both users and operators. In addition, a Rural Electrification Strategy was also collaboratively developed, targeting increased private-sector involvement in rural electrification, as well as promoting appropriate use of renewable energy sources, and establishing both centralised and decentralised rural electrification schemes, at affordable prices.

Energy debates

SNEL has signed a contract for the Kinshasa network normalisation and prepayment meter project, worth some $30 million, with Siemens Southern Africa. The objective, which has the approval of the Minister of Energy, is to improve the reliability and stability of the electricity system, whilst ensuring that SNEL will be able to charge and collect accurate service fees from their customers.

Current debates in the energy sector include the recent draft of the latest oil and gas bill for the country, which calls for the dismantling of Cohydro and its transformation into a refined product wholesaler, as well as the creation of a new national oil company, empowered to buy stakes in both local and international oil projects. The legislation was due in Parliament in May 2011. Also in May 2011, the Government announced that all mining, forestry and oil contracts undertaken by the Government were to be made public, following calls for greater transparency from the IMF and World Bank.

Energy studies

The DRC is part of both the South African Development Community (SADC) and the South African Power Pool (SAPP). These two organisations are dedicated to regional integration, the reduction of trade barriers, and the inter-connection of national electricity grids.

The DRC is also a stakeholder in SINELAC (Société International d'Electricite des Pays des Grands Lacs) along with the Governments of Burundi and Rwanda. The company is active in the collaborative development of hydroelectric potential in the three countries.

Role of government

The Ministry of Mines, Energy and Hydrocarbons has within it the Department of Electricity and Water Affairs which has the responsibility of managing energy policy, and supervises the technical aspects of SNEL, the national power authority.

Government agencies

The National Energy Commission (CNE) is responsible for monitoring the energy sector in the country. The Commission consists of an advisory committee, chaired by the Minister for Energy, and a permanent secretariat of approximately 75 members. The CNE is directly responsible for the renewable energy sector of the country, as part of its remit, and has previously conducted studies into the potential use of wind power and micro-hydro for rural electrification.

Energy procedure

In the short term, there are priority electrification projects for urban and rural areas, using micro-hydro plants, in line with the Ministry of Energy's program for electrification of the DRCs regions (as developed by the CNE).

In the medium-to-long term, development of the Inga site (along major interconnection lines, dubbed “Africa's energy highway”) is the major goal. The DRC is developing energy exports from Inga through interconnection projects:

  • Northern axis: DRC – North Africa (Libya – Egypt)
  • Western axis: DRC – Gabon – Cameroon – Nigeria
  • Southern axis: DRC – Angola – Namibia – South Africa.


This major project will constitute an important source of finance for the DRC's electrification projects – including electrification of 347 centres via micro-hydro plants, over 20 years.

There are plans to build an additional hydroelectric facility; Inga III. It would have a capacity of 4,500 MW and cost US$5 billion. Initially, it was to be the centrepiece of the Westcor partnership, which will connect the electric grids of the DRC, Namibia, Angola, Botswana and South Africa. The shareholders are Empresa Nacional de Electricidade de Angola, the Botswana Power Company, SNEL of the DRC, ESKOM of South Africa and NamPower of Namibia. However, in July 2009, Westcor withdrew and the DRC announced it will be the sole owner and operator. The World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Investment Bank have indicated that they will provide financing.

On the drawing board is an even more ambitious hydro project, Grand Inga. It would generate 39,000 MW and cost an estimated US$80 billion, plus US$10 billion to build a transmission grid to neighbouring countries. It would be the world’s largest dam project, and would have a capacity twice that of China's Three Gorges dam. It is highly unlikely that the project will be built, given the enormous cost.

In terms of transmission developments, the Inga-Kolwezi HVDC line is due for refurbishment in 2013, to enhance the reliability of the grid and extend the lifespan of the system. Developments on the Nile Basin initiative, through which the DRC is to connect to the Burundian electricity grid, have been negligible. The Initiative is to connect the power grids of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC, to advance regional trade in power and reduce shortfalls in the involved countries.

Energy regulator

The Ministry of Mines and Energy regulates the petroleum industry. SNEL (http://www.snel.cd/) is a subsidiary of the Ministry, and reports directly to the Ministry. There is no dedicated energy industry regulator, and SNEL is largely self-regulating.

Degree of independence

The Ministry is a direct subsidiary of the government of the DRC.

Regulatory framework

Regulations to guarantee the effectiveness of wind power generation through storm-proofing have been included in the most recent draft of the Electrification Code. However, no law exists to promote renewable energy technologies, nor regulations for their use.

Regulatory roles

The Ministry is responsible for the setting of electricity tariffs and procedures for the extension of the grid, as well as monitoring the country's IPP projects. SNEL acts to ensure its own operational standards.

Energy regulation role

The General Atomic Energy Commission (CGEA) is responsible for promoting peaceful use of nuclear energy. The Commission is responsible for regulating issues relating to nuclear energy in the country.

Regulatory barriers

The unbundling of SNEL, followed by the creation of a rudimentary private market, with private sector investment and involvement, would create the need for improved energy regulation.

Sustainable energy regulation in the DRC is still in its infancy, and is hampered by a lack of institutional capacity, the current absence of a large sustainable energy market due to the high-risk environment for private investors in the country, and the lack of an independent regulatory body for the energy sector.