KINSHASA, June 29 (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo public utility company SNEL on Tuesday announced that it has signed power purchase agreements for the construction of two 100 megawatt (MW) solar power plants in the south -is rich in copper and cobalt. for over $ 300 million.
SNEL has approved the projects, which are expected to start in March 2022 and begin operating in early 2023, with developer Financing Access, which is in partnership with the Green Power Capital (GPC) investment fund, the companies said in a joint press release.
A factory in the town of Kolwezi will cost $ 148 million, while a factory in the nearby town of Likasi will cost $ 157 million.
Less than 10% of Congo’s roughly 90 million people have reliable access to electricity, and electricity shortages are a major obstacle to building processing plants to add value to copper exports and cobalt.
Congo is Africa’s largest producer of copper and the world’s largest miner of cobalt, which is used in batteries for electric vehicles and other electronic products.
“With the signing of this agreement, we will help secure the energy supply of large urban and peri-urban centers,” said Jean-Bosco Kayombo Kayan, Director General of SNEL, in a press release.
“Likewise, we will be able to ensure the supply of electricity to industrialists in the area, in particular the mining companies which represent the economic lungs of Haut-Katanga and Lualaba (provinces)”, he declared.
The two plants will provide the Congolese grid with an average annual output of around 500 gigawatt hours, enough to provide electricity to more than 1.25 million people, SNEL said.
The country has long placed its hopes for energy security in plans to extend the Inga dams along the Congo River, which could eventually become the largest hydropower project in the world, but progress has been repeatedly stymied on funding problems. (Hereward Holland report edited by Aaron Ross and David Evans)