Exclusive interview with Vika Di Panzu, General Director of Katanga Energy and the Chairman of the Pre-Conference Power Focus Session at DRC Mining Week in Lubumbashi

ENERGY INTERVIEW : “The development of the energy sector in the DRC will come through private investments”

1.) Let’s start with some background on Katanga Energy and your role there?
•    Katanga Energy, « KATen », is a private power company, registered in DRC, in 2013. AEE POWER sa, Spain, Madrid, is the principal shareholder.
•    KATen is aimed at reducing energy deficit and to be world class Operator in DRC
•    KATen is developing projects in : Generation, Transport ; Import ; Distribution and Commercialisation of power, namely for mining companies, in Katanga, and in general, for clients in DRC.
•    To do so, KATen and the group of AEE POWER, are busy developing short and long term projects.
•    I am Managing Director of KATen since its creation.  I am leading Experts of KATen and of AEE POWER group of companies to achieve our projects. My background is Electrical Engineer. I graduated in Kinshasa in 1974.

2.) Tell us more about your career prior to Katanga Energy.
•    Before KATen, I spent 32 years in SNEL, the Power Utility in DRC. Recruited in 1980 and retired end of 2012.
•    From bottom, as Operating Electrical Engineer, till the top, as CEO (2004-2007).
•    I was Director of Cabinet (Chief of Staff) of Minister of Energy (2010-2012).
•    As CEO of SNEL, I initiated and implemented various projects of rehabilitation and extension in generaration and transmission thru public private partnership agreements.
•    As Chief of Staff at ministry of Energy, I was appointed Chairman of INGA 3 Steering Committee (2010-2012). I was also member of the working group for the new Electricity Act.

3.) Any specific projects that you are currently involved in and particularly excited about?
•    Our short term project : Import of power from Congo-Brazzaville
•    Feasibility studies done in 2014/2015 ;
•    License of import and commercialisation of power granted ;
•    Agreements are underway to buy, transit and resell energy in DRC
•    Also KATen busy doing feasibility studies for new generation projects after identification and signature of MOU with Minister of Energy (2016).

4.) What in your view are the main challenges to the DRC mining sector?

•    Main challenge remain the availability of power at affordable cost
•    Energy deficit is hampering increase and profitability of mining production

5.) How big a challenge is energy? What energy solutions are mining companies coming up with themselves?
•    According to the Energy Conference chaired by Minister of Energy at Lubumbashi, 1st apr 2017, deficit is estimated at 700 MW ! It will increase if nothing is done.
•    Short term solution is import of power.

6.) What is your vision for the sector?
•    My vision is the big development of the power sector after more than 30 years of depreciation due to lack of investments and lack of proper legal framework.
•    Development will come through private investments
•    The new Electricity Act and the setting up of ARE (Autorité de Regulation de l’Electricité) should allow new private players and investors, through full liberalisation

7.) You are chairing the pre-conference Power Focus Session DRC Mining Week in June, what are you hoping for at the event?
I hope to have presentations and discussions that may result in :
(i)    Short and medium term solutions to reduce energy deficit
(ii)    Better quality and cost of power supply to mining companies
(iii)    Development of renewable energy sources with or by mining companies

8.) What are you most looking forward to at the event?
In 2017 we should achieve tangible projects in rehabilitation and new generation projects ; also in Import of power opportunities.

9.) Anything you would like to add?
•    Tariffs remain an important issue to consider
•    Increase of new generation implies to allow SNEL to increase the average High Voltage tariff as the actual one is very low ; no incentive to new IPP (Independant Producer)
•    If this issue is well adressed, it will attract IPPs to invest and to sell to SNEL at cost reflective tariffs acceptable by the parties
•    Then SNEL will be the Single Buyer of IPP ; and SNEL to resell at unique average tariff, as it is the case for ZESCO, in Zambia, or ESKOM, in South Africa.
•    The actual system of various tariffs applied (depending of the source of energy) is not sustainable ; the rationale is to have a unique tariff system for all SNEL clients.

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