Geothermal Energy to Meet 30% of Kenya’s Electricity Needs by 2030

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Photo credit: Chacha's Coney Island

Sitting smack dab in the East African Rift, Kenya is literally a hotbed of geothermal activity, and it’s becoming a focal point for the development of geothermal power as well. Nineteen companies, including General Electric, Mitsubishi Corp., Toshiba and France’s Alstom SA, submitted bids to Kenya’s state-owned Geothermal Development Co. to develop eight, 100-megawatt (MW) geothermal power plants in the Bogoria-Silali block of land in northwestern Kenya, according to a Bloomberg news report.

With climate change, food and energy security prominent and increasingly urgent concerns in East Africa, governments and private and public sector organizations in the region, with the support of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Bank, have set up the African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) to realize the region’s geothermal power potential.

With a population of 38.4 million and growing, Kenya’s is East Africa’s largest economy. Peak demand for electricity has increased to 1,200MW this year and is forecast to reach 15,000MW by 2030. The government anticipates that geothermal power will generate 30% of the country’s additional electricity over the next 20 years.

A two-day ARGeo meeting took place this past weekend sponsored by the UNDP, the Kenyan government, the Geothermal Development Co. and Kenya Electricity Generating Co. in which government mining and energy ministers met with geothermal industry specialists to discuss development opportunities and the means by which ARGeo can support and speed up development efforts, the All Africa news service reported.

Geothermal power already makes up about 15% of Kenya’s electrical power generation. The Geothermal Development Co. estimates that Kenya’s unexploited geothermal resource base includes 14 ‘high-potential’ sites with an estimated electricity output ranging between 7,000MW and 10,000MW and a value of $30 billion.

Besides fostering knowledge and technology sharing and transfer, ARGeo also aims to mobilize financial resources for geothermal power project development. Bloomberg reported on Sept. 2 that Kenya Electricity Generation Co. is considering issuing asset-backed securities to finance exploration and development of 4,700 MW worth of geothermal power over the next 20 years.

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