Scaling-up renewable energy in Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo

June 2012

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Introduction

In this edition of the Scaling-up renewable energy in Africa series of publications, we focus on the climate change investment policies and opportunities in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the energy sector. This briefing is a high-level compilation of key policies and projects, based on publicly available sources, and is not intended to be comprehensive.

Key points on Democratic Republic of Congo

  • DRC has a population of 73,670,000
  • Per capita emissions are very low, at 0.30tCO2e per capita per year
  • The tropical rainforest of the Congo Basin is the world’s second largest, after South America’s Amazon Rainforest. The Basin, extending over 3,832,400 km² is situated in the heart of the African tropics, the DRC is home to the greatest expanse of rainforest in all of Africa
  • In the decade from 1990 to 2000 alone, over 20,000 square miles of the DRC’s forests were wiped away. In the current decade, the DRC’s rainforest has been shrinking, on average, by 319,000 hectares (over 1200 square miles) annually.1
  • It has been estimated that reducing the deforestation rates observed in the previous decade by 50 percent by 2050 would avoid the release of up to 50 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, a number equivalent to 6 years worth of emissions from burning fossil fuels at current rates.2
  • Due to a lack of diversification of power sources, the energy sector remains highly dependent on fuelwood and charcoal which accounts for more than 95 percent of total use.3
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UNFCCC/Kyoto Protocol

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the process of implementing the UNFCCC. Within the framework of its National Communication, it has undertaken studies on the country’s vulnerability and adaptation strategy in priority areas such as water resources, agriculture and coastline.4

In its first National Communication, DRC recognised the need for the country to have improved access to clean energy for domestic, residential or transport needs and industrial activities and aimed achieve this by reducing its dependence on fuels and derivatives, improving electricity generation and distribution, substituting fossil fuel energy for renewable energy sources and incorporating policies of using clean technologies in the transport section and of promoting the exploitation of biogas reserves.

The period covered by the second National Communication from the Democratic Republic of Congo coincided with a period of conflict that has caused significant loss of life and damage to infrastructure. Notable environmental degradation was recorded. Further, the impacts of climate change are already being recorded throughout the country5.

The second National Communication touches upon DRC’s energy and resource use:

Biomass

The DRC has around 125 million hectares of forest. The wood potential is assessed 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. DRC’s domestic energy demands result in the net loss of around 400,000 hectares of forest each year6. Reforestation is therefore a priority.

Biogas

The potential to produce biogas from plant and animal wastes is immense. The total estimated methane reserves at Lake Kivu are 50 billion m3.

Electricity

Hydropower resources are abundant. The DRC has a huge hydropower potential of 100,000 MW, the equivalent of 13 % of the world’s hydropower potential. Yet the domestic rate of electrification remains low, and is currently estimated at no more than 9 %, while less than 3 % of the DRC’s hydropower potential is exploited. Hydroelectricity provides more than 96% of electricity generated in DRC. The main sources of hydroelectricity are the two Inga dams, 140 miles south-west of Kinshasa. Current aggregate power for all of Congo’s power stations stands at an estimated 650-750 MW.

Solar

The DRC is in a very high level sun belt that makes the installation of photovoltaic systems and the use of thermal solar systems viable throughout the country. Currently there are 836 solar power 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 kW7. The potential for further solar development is high.

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CDM projects

There are currently two CDM projects registered in Democratic Republic of Congo.8 As the Democratic Republic of Congo is a Least Developed Country, the CERs issued from CDM projects registered in DRC after 31 December 2012 will be eligible for compliance under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme.

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ICTs for climate change mitigation9

One of the UN Millennium Development Goals is to make the benefits of new technologies - especially information and communications technologies (ICTs) – available to both industrialised nations and developing regions. With these goals in mind, many projects have been founded by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other organisations with the aim of looking into ICTs and climate change.

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Climate Change Legislation

DRC has no National Climate Change Policy and Strategy that presents DRC’s current and future efforts to address climate change vulnerability and adaptation. It currently relies on environment-related policies and action plans to implement climate change initiatives and activities. Nevertheless, several NGOs and donor agencies have been active in the DRC to develop an administrative structure to address the needs of environmental protection and natural resources management.

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Law n° 11/009 on the fundamental principles relating to environmental protection

Following the United Nations Conferences on the Environment in Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro, the DRC brought in Law 11/009 of 9 July 2011, setting out the fundamental principles related to environmental protection. The law fixes the institutional framework as well as the procedural and financial mechanisms of the environmental protection; it establishes the rules of the natural resources management and conservation, and regulates the civil responsibility in this matter by providing for the infringements and sanctions.

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Semi-Urban and Rural Electrification Project

DRC has the 4th highest hydro-electric power potential in the world, with 600 billion KWH and about thirty power stations mainly located in Katanga and in the Bas-Congo. Almost 2.5 percent of this potential is currently tapped.

Hydroelectricity provides more than 96 percent of electricity generated in DRC. More than half of the exploitable capacity is at the Hyd’Inga facility. The long distance between this site and users has had a negative impact on electrification of villages and towns across the country as due to DRC’s size (four times that of France), it requires thousands of kilometres of electricity lines to reach users. As a result, the electrification rate is just 6 percent.10

In line with its strategy to boost energy infrastructure to accelerate Africa’s development, the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group approved in December 2010, a grant of USD 106.6 million to the DRC, to finance the country’s rural and semi-urban electrification projects. In 2002, the World Bank also approved USD 167 million in energy support for the DRC’s electricity system. The aim was to rebuild Inga Dams I & II, strengthen or add power lines, and extend power distribution to 250,000 additional people in Kinshasa.

Real change on the ground has been slow however. To date, only two of Inga’s turbines have been refurbished, and power output remains at barely 40 percent of the original capacity.

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REDD+ in DRC

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) in DRC is based on 5 key principles: unique process, participative process, transparent process, scientifically robust and regionally integrated.

It is managed through six priority projects:

  • coordinating catalysing
  • mobilising - building capacities and capabilities (raising awareness)
  • building strategy
  • supplying tools for implementation
  • building institutional framework
  • securing funding

UN-REDD will function with Norway’s financial support and with WB-FCPF being decisive players to serve the national process in DRC.11

In 2009, the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund purchased 500,000 tons of emission reductions from a reforestation project in the DRC, generating environmental benefits to the local community as well as social services.12

Aware of the great potential for REDD+ in the country, DRC has forged ahead from the planning to the implementation stages of REDD+ preparedness. The initial DRC National Programme, which helped launch and structure the country’s national REDD+ strategy, transitioned into the full National Programme (Readiness Plan) after it was approved by the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board.13

The DRC preliminarily structured its REDD+ Plan around 4 sections containing 14 distinct programmes. Through this, the DRC created the CN-REDD and launched a centralised and regional reform of its institutions; it allocated itself a legal framework governing the group of activities linked to the forest. Program 12 covers the reduction in demand for fuelwood and increase in supply through sustainable afforestation / reforestation, within the context of a coherent national energy strategy.

The REDD+ plan includes complementary programmes with two objectives:

  • to reduce the demand by furnishing of high efficiency ovens to urban households in order to reduced their consumption of fuelwood
  • to increase the supply with sustainable reforestation and afforestation projects with alternative sources of energy.14

The “Readiness Plan for REDD 2010-2012” published in March 2010 creates a vision for the country being “ready” by 1 January 2013, to ensure that the preliminary REDD+ objectives are met. According to this report, the Ministry of Energy finalised a document on the policy of the electric energy sector (based namely on a study of hydroelectric and solar potential), which already mentions the country’s adherence to the REDD principles. Among others, one of the Ministry’s objectives is to rationalise the use of wood charcoal, particularly through the CATEB (Centre d’Adaptation des Techniques Energie Bois - Centre for adapting wood energy techniques). An improved oven project (PROBEC – Programme for Basic Energy Conservation) was also scheduled to be launched in 24 communes around Kinshasa, in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment.

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Footnotes

  1. Friends of the Congo. (2008). The Democratic Republic of the Congo: Rainforests and Climate Change. Available at <http://friendsofthecongo.org/pdf/congo_rainforest.pdf>
  2. Ibid
  3. United Nations Environment Programme (2011) The Democratic Republic of Congo Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment Synthesis for Policy Makers.
  4. Adaptation Learning Mechanism. (2009) The Democratic Republic of Congo. Available at here
  5. http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/natc/rdcnc2exsume.pdf
  6. http://postconflict.unep.ch/publications/UNEP_DRC_PCEA_EN.pdf
  7. http://www.reegle.info/countries/congo-dem-rep-energy-profile/CD
  8. http://cdm.unfccc.int/Statistics/Registration/NumOfRegisteredProjByHostPartiesPieChart.html
  9. http://www.giswatch.org/en/country-report/2010-icts-and-environmental-sustainability/democratic-republic-congo-drc
  10. Policy DB – REEEP – The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership
  11. UN-REDD Programme. (2009). The REDD+ challenge in DRC. Available here
  12. Climate Change and Practice. (2009). World Bank BioCarbon Fund Supports Reforestation in Congo DRC. Available here
  13. UN-REDD Programme. (20011). Democratic Republic of the Congo. Available here
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