Department of Energy, Minister of Energy, Ministere des Hydocarbures et des Mines Service des mines et da la Geologie, Pool Energetique de l’Afrique Centrale, Société Nationale d’Electricité
The Société National d’Electricité, known as SNE, is the state owned organisation responsible for electricity generation and supply. The company reports to the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Hydrocarbons. In mid-2001 the government invited international tenders for the privatisation of SNE.
Congo has a large, but unexploited potential for hydroelectric expansion – as much as 3000 MW. The current power generation capacity of the country is 118 MW, with Bouenza (74 MW) and Djoué (15 MW) hydroelectric plants the largest facilities. The majority of Congo’s installed capacity is hydro powered. Two Hydroelectric power stations operate on rivers near Brazzaville and thermal stations operate in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire.
Electricity consumption in Congo is low, as the country has a large rural population for whom the primary source of fuel is wood. Electricity transmission links are poor in many parts of the country, and these, coupled with the effects of the civil war of recent years, has contributed to a disrupted power supply service. Electricity consumption has been estimated at 588 million kWh, while generation is around 500 kWh. Congo is thus a net importer of power, with one-quarter of its power purchased from SNEL in the Democratic Republic of Congo via a 220 kV interconnection.
Congo’s electricity consumption currently is low, as most people in rural areas rely on wood as their primary source of fuel. Moreover, electricity transmission links are non-existent in many parts of the country, and fighting during the civil war destroyed much remaining infrastructure. Moukoukoulou, repeatedly a target for rebels during the civil war, has had its productive capacity reduced to 55 MW. In 1996, the Djoué hydropower station on the outskirts of Brazzaville was refurbished by Rotek, a branch of the South African power company, Eskom, but it was subsequently damaged in future fighting. Officials from SNE estimate that the cost of necessary repairs to the generating facilities at 15 billion CFA ($20.4 million). The generation shortage has forced Congo to import increasing amounts of power from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo plans to reduce its reliance on electricity imports by expanding current facilities and constructing additional generation facilities.
Congo’s dependence on electricity imports is set to change with a number of proposals for expansion of current facilities and construction of new plants.
The Djoué hydroelectric station was refurbished in the late 1990’s by Rotek, the engineering subsidiary of South African company, Eskom Enterprises.
The Congo government and Czech company, Geo-Industia, signed a US$11.2 million agreement to complete feasibility studies for four small hydroelectric plants in northern Congo.
In 2003, construction began on the Imboulou hydroelectric dam on the Lefini River. Two Chinese companies, CMEC and CIEMCO are cooperating with the Congo government on the $280 million project. The 120-MW plant should increase Congo’s electrical capacity to 234 MW. Construction of the facility is expected to take 5 – 6 years.
Development of the $925 million, 1-gigawatt (GW) Sounda Gorge hydroelectric project has been postponed. Sounda Gorge, at the confluence of the Niari and Kouilou Rivers, is located approximately 85 miles north of Pointe Noire. Before independence, the French built access roads, a cement-processing factory and a deviation tunnel at Sounda Gorge. Following independence, Electricite de France (EdF) unsuccessfully tried to complete the generating facilities.
In February 2005 Asssociated Press announced that a South African-led consortium was planning a Congo River project that will nearly double Africa’s current electricity output without harming the environment. The project will generate about 40,000 megawatts of electricity and will be activated in phases over a yet-to-be determined period of time. In the first phase, Eskom – together with the power utilities of Angola, Botswana, Congo and Namibia – will rehabilitate and upgrade two dams along the Inga rapids on the Congo river within four to six years and generate about 9,500 megawatts of electricity for 12 southern African countries. At least half of the project’s electricity will be produced through a process that diverts river water through electricity-generating turbines before funneling it back into the Congo river. The project which is estimated at US$50 billion (euro37.9 billion) will be funded in part by the respective governments under the New Partnership for African Development, a program adopted by the African Union for the economic development of Africa.
Prior to the 1997 civil war, SNE was one of the government entities considered for privatisation. This is now not likely to occur in the immediate future due to the damage inflicted upon SNE’s infrastructure during the war. Electricite de France (EdF) has shown interest in SNE in the past and has offered aid in the refurbishment of Brazzaville’s infrastructure.