Tom Wilson

World Bank stops funding world’s biggest power plant plan

The World Bank has suspended funding to help develop a $14 billion hydropower project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a stage in what could become the world’s biggest power plant, after a disagreement with the nation over implementation plans.

The announcement to halt financing the Inga 3 project followed the Congo’s decision “to take the project in a different strategic direction to that agreed between the World Bank and the government in 2014,” the Washington-based lender said in a statement on its website on Tuesday, without elaborating further.

The World Bank agreed to $73 million in technical assistance for the first phase of the $100 billion Grand Inga hydropower project which would produce 44,000 megawatts. Inga 3 alone would produce at least 4,800 megawatts, almost double Congo’s current installed capacity. China’s Three Gorges power plant, at 22,500 megawatts, is currently the world’s biggest power plant.

Only 6 percent of these funds had been disbursed before the decision to pull its support, the World Bank said. The lender would continue to work with the government to ensure the project’s execution follows proper procedures, it said.

Bruno Kapandji, who heads the Inga project for the government, didn’t answer calls and staff at his office said he was not available for comment.

The World Bank is halting its funding due to concerns that environmental and social standards would be overlooked as the Congo fast-tracks the project to honor a supply agreement with South Africa by 2021, Joshua Klemm, a policy director at lobby group International Rivers, said in an e-mailed statement.

The two ventures which are still in the running to build the project are China Three Gorges Corp. in partnership with Sinohydro Corp., and Madrid-based Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA with Spain’s Eurofinsa SA. The government has said it expects to receive final bids by the end of this month and will select a developer by September.