The World Bank's International Finance Corp. (IFC) has signed a project services agreement with the Congo Republic to assess the feasibility of the 400- to 1,000-MW Sounda Gorge hydroelectric project in the Congo Republic (CR).
Under the agreement signed October 11, IFC is to carry out studies that will assess the potential for a hydropower project with strong environmental and social safeguards at Sounda Gorge on the Kouilou River. The World Bank invited expressions of interest in March from technical, environmental and electricity market consultants to advance development of the project.
The CR government and IFC agreed in February that IFC would serve as lead transaction adviser to develop the Sounda Gorge project on a public-private partnership basis. IFC is to develop a detailed implementation plan and budget for the project prior to negotiating a financial advisory services agreement.
IFC now is to consider a range of scenarios for establishing a dam and hydroelectric power plant, undertaking detailed engineering, environmental, social and market studies, as well as a legal analysis. The agreement ensures that IFC's due diligence will be carried out in accordance with IFC's performance standards.
IFC is to carry out the studies over 18 months, providing information to help the government determine the most appropriate size for the project based on environmental and social considerations and the amount of electricity that can be consumed. The agency is to consider options for developing the project, including through public procurement and public-private partnerships.
The Congo Republic is preparing a pipeline of major infrastructure projects to be developed on a public-private partnership basis, including a large hydro project, most likely at Sounda Gorge. The government originally approved a deal in 2006 for Old Mutual Properties, a division of South African insurance giant Old Mutual, to finance building Sounda Gorge in Kouilou Department and the 600-MW Chollet hydro project in Sangha Department.
A pre-feasibility study performed in the 1950s concluded a hydro project built on the Kouilou and Niari rivers at Sounda Gorge could total up to 1,000 MW. However, the eventual capacity will depend on financing and likely environmental and social effects of the dam and reservoir. The government plans to examine one or more alternative sites upstream and downstream of Sounda Gorge before deciding the precise project location.