Congolese state-owned utility company Société Nationale d’Électricité (SNEL) has reportedly signed power purchase agreements to build two solar power plants for more than $300m.

Reuters reported that the two facilities, each with 100MW of capacity, will be developed in the country’s south-east region, which is rich in copper and cobalt.

SNEL director-general Jean-Bosco Kayombo Kayan was quoted by Reuters as saying: “With the signing of this agreement, we will contribute to securing the energy supply in the major urban and peri-urban centres.

“We will similarly be able to ensure the supply of electricity to industrialists in the area, in particular the mining companies, which represent the economic lungs of [the] Haut-Katanga and Lualaba [provinces].”

One solar plant will be built in the town of Kolwezi with a $148m investment, while the other facility will be built in the nearby city of Likasi and is set to cost $157m.

The company plans to break ground for these two projects next March, with the plants scheduled to begin operations in early 2023.

Construction will be carried out together with developer Financing Access, which is partnered with US-based investment fund Green Power Capital (GPC).

SNEL said that the solar facilities will have the capacity to supply 500GWh of clean energy to Congo’s grid, enough to meet the power requirements of more than 1.25 million people in the region.

Despite being one of Africa’s major copper producers and the world’s biggest cobalt miner, the Democratic Republic of the Congo lacks reliable access to electricity.

According to Reuters, less than 10% of the country’s population of around 90 million has reliable access to power.

Last year, Power Technology reported that the Inga-Kolwezi transmission line operated by SNEL was one of the world’s longest transmission lines, measuring 1,700km in length.

The 500kV line carries power from the Inga Falls hydropower station on the Congo River to the copper mining district of Katanga in the country’s south-east region.