Powering Africa: Kenya eyes more billions to expand geothermal energy


Kenya, East Africa’s largest and most advanced economy is currently the leading region exploring and installing geothermal energy capacity (standing at 676 MegaWatts, 2019) according to ESI Africa, hence Kenya is seeking to expand its geothermal mastery.

On a larger scale, the geothermal technology is rather at an initial phase in Africa, as developed nations take the lead, including high-installed capacities in the US with more than 3.8 gigawatts, according to Power Technology publication.

Kenya Electricity Generating company has taken its interest to another level, as it seeks to raise at least $1.95 billion to build new and upgrade existing plants “in a bid to almost double its output from the renewable fuel” according to information from Bloomberg News.

The Kenyan power company ambitions will make Kenya a competitive powerhouse, as the country has a total installed capacity of 2.4GW, the stated-owned company anticipated to sweep more than 651 megawatts from the underground stream in the next five years, according to the company’s Assistant Manager for resource development and infrastructure, Cyrus Karighithi.

On the other side of the fence, according to Power Technology published in 2018, East African has its geothermal energy contributing one-quarter of its installed capacity but has more than a 45 per cent share in the country’s overall electricity generation.

“Capacity is expected to triple during the period 2018–2025 to reach 1.7GW. Geothermal is expected to provide more than one-third of the total installed capacity and around 55% of the country’s electricity generation by 2025,” according to Power Technology.

This huge ambition is inspired by the Kenyan government energy policy which directs the state-electricity company (KenGen), with other country’s independent power producers, to eliminate fossil fuels powered generation.

“Per the Kenya Vision 2030 energy plan, most of the country’s electricity has to come from renewable sources, at the utility, commercial, and industrial scales, and as off-grid solutions, in 2030 and beyond,” Power Technology report argued.

However, according to Bloomberg News, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is pressing investors towards tapping his country’s enormous geothermal resources with a clear goal to switch completely to “renewable energy to generate electricity for the nation’s grid, from about 90 per cent currently”.

“KenGen plans to build four new 140-megawatt steam-power plants each, including a project to be delivered as a public-private partnership, according to Karingithi. Steam wells have already been drilled at two of the planned facilities. The company also plans to upgrade some projects to add 66 megawatts and to deliver another 25 megawatts from wellheads, mobile generating plants, at the Eburru field,” Bloomberg News.

KenGen’s chief told Bloomberg in an interview that, most of the funds for the energy development will be extracted from development financiers.

READ:Energy in Kenya: A constant battle for more! 

Kenya’s past geothermal funding

Kenya has been grilling the funding ground to expand its geothermal energy landscape, the country has been seeking funds from different sources.

Power Technology report, argued that KenGen was in the process of building a new 150MW plant, financed by a $400m loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project started back in 2018.

“Private developer Quantum Power East Africa secured loans of up to $50m from Climate Investment Funds, through the Clean Technology Fund, for its 35MW geothermal development at Menengai, Kenya. The project is one of three modular geothermal plants in the Menengai field, which have a combined capacity of 105MW. JICA signed a loan agreement with the government of Kenya in Nairobi to provide a Japanese ODA loan of up to JPY10.077 billion ($94m) for the Olkaria I units 1, 2, and 3 Geothermal Power Plant Rehabilitation Project,” Power Technology report said.

Further, Bloomberg News noted that Kenya can generate 1,803 megawatts of Kenya’s total installed capacity of 2,892 megawatts, whereby of that, almost 705 megawatts is geothermal energy produced by the state-owned company.

According to BBC, Globally, geothermal energy is a $4.6bn industry, with more than 500 powerplants electrifying millions of households across South-east Asia, North America, Europe and beyond, thus Kenya is leading Africa there. Geothermal is, after all, the second most abundant source of energy in the world behind solar.

READ:French company joins fray to provide Kenyans with solar energy

Padili Mikomangwa is an environmentalist based in Tanzania. . He is passionate about helping communities be aware of critical issues cutting across, environmental economics and natural resources management. He holds a bachelors degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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