South Sudan is planning to build about half a dozen hydropower and thermal power plants to help end almost permanent blackouts across the country and attract investment to manufacturing industries, an electricity official said on Wednesday.
South Sudan became the world's newest nation when it seceded from Sudan in July under a peace deal. After decades of civil war and economic neglect, the country has almost no power infrastructure.
The capital Juba rarely has electricity and many businesses rely on costly diesel generators to keep the lights on.
"With these blackouts people said the ministry could be the Ministry of Darkness," Deputy Minister of Electricity and Dams Lawrence Loku Moyu told an investment conference in Juba.
"We are trying to base our planning strategy on our two indigenous facilities, that is petroleum and hydro."
The central African state hopes to tap the energy potential of the Nile River, aiming to build a 40 MW hydropower station near the capital in the next three years, Loku Moyu said.
In the longer term, the government plans to build two 200 MW hydropower facilities and a 540 MW plant that would each take five to seven years to complete, he said. None of the schemes have secured funding.
South Sudan depends almost entirely on oil production for its state revenues, but shut down its roughly 350,000 barrels per day output in January in protest after Khartoum started taking some crude to make up for what it called unpaid fees.
The landlocked nation has the fifth largest known crude reserves on the continent at 1.5 billion barrels but still needs to export through Sudan. The two have not agreed how much it should pay to use its northern neighbour's facilities.
Loku Moyu said South Sudan also wants to build a thermal power plant alongside a proposed 10,000 barrel per day oil refinery in Unity state.
"We are aiming to create 200 MW in the oil rich region," he said. "We cannot announce it because we have no money for either the feasibility study or the design and construction."
He said construction of new plants would eventually help South Sudan build its economy.
"We have no industries, the main (reason) is the lack of power. The lack of funding for projects is one of the major challenges."
In the meantime, he said the government is looking to import 50-100 MW of power from Ethiopia in two or three years, but no funding has been found for that project either.