The Congo National Committee aims to promote sustainable energy development in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as a part of the World Energy Council’s energy vision. As a member of the World Energy Council network, the organisation is committed to representing the Congolese perspective within national, regional and global energy debates. The committee includes a variety of members to ensure that the diverse energy interests of Congo are appropriately represented. Members of the committee are invited to attend high-level events, participate in energy-focused study groups, contribute to technical research and be a part of the global energy dialogue.
Energy in Congo (Democratic Republic of)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the 11th largest country in the world, with a population of over 83 million. The DRC has one of the lowest electrification rates in the world at just over 9%, with 1% in rural areas and 19% in urban areas. The country hosts large reserves of mineral resources and has a potential to install up to 100,000 MW of hydropower capacity. With an ambition of providing 65% electrification in 2025 and universal access by 2050, the DRC is facing issues in governance, electric utility performance, effective policymaking and implementation of existing plans.
With 167 million hectares of forest and nearly 10% of the world’s tropical forests, the Democratic Republic of Congo is the second largest tropical forest country in the world. The country is also endowed with abundant energy potential and resources: biomass, hydro, solid, liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons (including methane gas from Lake Kivu), mineral coal, oil shale, solar wind potentials, uranium ore, etc. While still very little of these resources have been developed, the conservation and sustainable management of these resources are major challenges for the Congolese government. The direction taken by the DRC in terms of the exploitation of its natural resources is most likely to have impacts at the regional as well as global level.
For this year’s Issues Monitor, the energy leaders of Congo have identified climate framework, corruption and regional integration as the critical uncertainties and hydro, decentralised systems and coal as the action priorities for the country.
Climate framework is the critical uncertainty number one for this year’s Issues Monitor. The DRC is in the process of implementing the Paris Agreement. The country also has a high rate of deforestation, ranking within the top ten in the world. CO2 emissions nationally are around 3 million metric tons per year, equating to around 0.04 metric tons per person. The shift to modern energy services, electricity and improved cooking stoves will help decrease the use of diesel and kerosene for energy needs.
According to energy leaders in Congo, corruption is a critical uncertainty for the energy sector. The DRC’s progress toward providing universal access to electricity is uncertain following claims of massive corruption. The recent bribery claims during one of the energy tenders is a big setback to the DRC, as the country is trying to attract foreign investors.
The issue of regional integration is the third critical uncertainty according to the DRC’s energy leaders. In a bid to meet the energy demand of industries, households and businesses, electricity access can be improved by making the most of cross-border electrification projects. Combined efforts to improve energy access will most likely require developing power supply interconnections in the Central African region. The DRC, by working with neighbouring Central African countries, could tap into huge reserves of renewable energy resources such as hydro, solar, wind energy, geothermal as well as non-renewables like thermal, peat, and coal that are technically and financially viable. However, political instability and suspicions of corruption have affected regional collaboration.
Energy leaders in Congo highlight hydro as the first action priority for this year’s Issues Monitor. The DRC hosts a potential to install up to 100,000 MW of hydropower capacity in the country. The government’s primary focus is to develop large-scale hydropower solutions to supply increasing energy demands and export electricity to neighbouring countries. The DRC is a long way from achieving its original target of 65% electrification by 2025, let alone the new Sustainable Development Goals of universal electricity access by 2030. The utilisation of hydropower could contribute to the delivery of energy targets with environmental sustainability in sight. Nevertheless, the cost of these large-scale projects, the political instability of the country, and the suspicions of corruption, have slowed down their development.
The issue of providing decentralised systems is the second action priority for this year’s Issues Monitor. With barely 16% of the population with access to electricity, the DRC government is working to improve rural electrification rates through off-grid solar kits and mini-grids. Small-scale projects around renewable energies are likely to significantly increase access to electricity, especially in rural areas.
The energy leaders in Congo consider coal as the third action priority for this year’s Issues Monitor. According to its energy leaders, coal will play an important part in the energy mix to achieve the 65% electrification target by 2025 and the universal access target by 2050.
Congo’s energy leader’s concerns and actions are aligned with the developments for security of supplies, climate framework and regional integration concerns in the country. The road is still long and fraught before the DRC can provide modern energy access services to its entire population. To do this, it will be necessary to include not only large national projects but also smaller projects, allowing the country to develop the diversity of its energy sources, particularly renewable sources.