08 Sep 2020, 14:11
Benjamin Wehrmann

Germany eyes green hydrogen production with new dam project on the Congo River

Süddeutsche Zeitung

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Germany could soon enter an energy partnership that would see the central African country provide hydropower capacity to produce green hydrogen for Germany's decarbonisation plans, Michael Bauchmüller, Kristiana Ludwig and Judith Raupp write in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The planned Inga 3 dam at the Congo River could help combining climate action and development cooperation, the German government's representative for Africa, Günter Nooke, told the newspaper. The dam with a potential capacity of 44,000 megawatts could help Germany bridge the significant gap between Germany's projected hydrogen demand and the modest production capacities at home but still exceed power demand in the DRC, Nooke said. "The time is right for Inga 3," he argued. But the project is also a cause for concern in the country, the authors write. Tens of thousands of villagers could lose their homes if the dam is built, with the government providing little compensation or assistance to its citizens to relocate. Human rights activists are calling for an impact assessment that takes into account the interests of civil society while environmental organisation International Rivers questions whether the DRC has the financial capacities to finance the dam at all, meaning it would have to go deeper into debt to raise the necessary funds. Germany's Africa representative Nooke said the German government should finance studies to assess the project's social and environmental impact, arguing that the number of affected people would be "relatively minuscule" compared to the Three-Gorges-Dam in China, where over two million people had to be relocated.

Green hydrogen produced with renewable energy sources plays a key role in Germany's energy transition plans and is seen as a promising way to store renewable power and make it available to sectors that are difficult to decarbonise, like heavy industry or aviation. The government aims to launch a comprehensive European hydrogen industry to achieve technological leadership in the field and has started talks with multiple countries around the world to assess possible cooperation projects for importing green hydrogen in the future.

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