Plans to build the world's largest hydro-electric power plant in the Democratic Republic of Congo could see huge amounts of green hydrogen exported from Africa to Germany, said an aide to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Plans for the hydropower dam – which at 44GW would be twice the size of the Three Gorges plant in China – were confirmed on the website of consulting firm Evagor, and backed in newspaper comments by Günter Nooke, Africa commissioner for Merkel.
“I am developing a project for the production of green hydrogen in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Evagor’s managing director Gernot Wagner said in a video posted on the company’s website.
“The project will produce electricity from a hydropower plant and convert this electricity into green hydrogen in a hydrogen production plant [electrolyser]. The hydrogen will then be transformed into liquid hydrogen and be transported in tanker vessels to Europe, to Germany.”
The African country’s president, Felix Tshisekedi, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper is planning to build a third hydro-electric power plant on the Congo River called Inga 3 that could have up to 44GW of capacity.
Nooke told the newspaper that German companies should back the construction of the giant dam in Congo, and in return the African country could sell very cheap hydrogen to Germany afterwards.
“You could combine all plans, climate policy, the industrialisation of Africa, good relations with China and the US, with it,” Nooke is quoted as saying in the newspaper. “It's time for Inga 3.”
Evagor’s Wagner said 10 companies are part of the first planning phase for the giant project, among them six Chinese firms on the construction side, German green hydrogen specialist Linde and Siemens New Energy, a business within the Siemens Energy spin-off.
The imported hydrogen would be used in heavy transport, heat, electricity and industry in Europe, he said, adding that the project depends on the support by the Congolese president and would contribute billions to the poor country’s budget.
But the gigantic hydropower project would also be hugely controversial. It would mean 37,000 locals would need to be relocated from their villages, according to Süddeutsche. Also, it is unclear whether the German government would in practice decide to support the project, as it is still unsure over the reliability of President Tshisekedi, who took office in 2019 after former dictator Joseph Kabila was ousted.
German hydrogen plan
Germany’s cabinet in June approved a €9bn ($10.6bn) national hydrogen strategy that sets targets the ramp-up of massive production of green H2 produced from domestic renewable energy sources, as well as large-scale imports from the EU and beyond.
The ambitious plan includes €2bn to support green hydrogen projects in partner countries. Berlin when launching the strategy only presented projects to build up an H2 infrastructure in Morocco, but German science minister Anja Karliczek earlier had also revealed that the country is exploring opportunities for H2 production and supply chains in Africa.
The government said by 2030, Germany will need hydrogen produced from 90-110TWh of electricity, but may only have 14TWh in domestic renewable power output available for H2 production, while the rest needs to be imported.