Harnessing local resources during times of pandemics


A geothermal power plant at Olkaria. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Countries across the world are facing unprecedented times as a result of the novel Coronavirus disease. Globally, there are more than 4.3 million confirmed cases. This crisis has affected every industry. A pandemic of this magnitude was last witnessed in the world in 1918. Christened the Spanish Flu, the disease infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 50 million.

It is during black swan events such as pandemics and economic recessions that the trajectory of governments, organisations, economies, and businesses are altered.

It is also during such periods that governments, companies, businesses and individuals take an in depth look at the resources available as well as those which can be harnessed.

Even as we look at opportunities presenting themselves during this situation, an important question to ask is how we can sustain our businesses beyond Covid-19. The situation we face currently presents us with an opportunity to leverage on the resources we have.

The Kenya Electricity Generating Company PLC (KenGen) #ticker:KEGN, being fully aware of the need for continuous and seamless production of electricity during this period, has put in place measures to guarantee continued power generation. Following the announcement of the first Covid-19 case in the country on March 13th, 2020, KenGen placed its critical teams on a shift system to minimise exposure and ensure continuity of energy production. In an effort to decongest the workplaces, the company also allowed other employees to work from home.

As we continue assessing the situation and adopting suitable measures to fight this scourge, it is worth reiterating that energy remains a key component in the fight against the virus. This does not however negate the role played by each of us in the fight against Covid-19.

Kenya is also endowed with huge geothermal energy resources, whose production has been growing over the years. The country’s effort to enhance the production of geothermal energy has paid off.

Kenya’s search for geothermal energy dates back to the 1950s when the country embarked on exploratory work in Olkaria, Naivasha. Kenya, now the seventh largest geothermal energy producer on the planet, has invested heavily in geothermal resource development as well as expertise.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Economic Survey of 2020 indicates that geothermal remains the major source of electricity in Kenya accounting for 45 percent of total generation. According to the report by KNBS, the country has an installed geothermal energy capacity of 828.4MW.

This growth has been spearheaded by KenGen which has expertise in rig operations, drilling, geothermal power plant development and maintenance.

Usage of renewable energy, such as geothermal allows countries, Kenya included, to enhance self-sufficiency and also limit dependency on costly imports and non-renewable energy sources. Renewable energy is clean, non-depletable and has a lower environmental impact than conventional energy sources.

Geothermal energy has the potential to support the country’s growth as it builds a strong and resilient economy in the face of Covid-19.

The writer is MD and CEO of KenGen.