Geothermal energy will boost Kenya's industrialisation bid


Kenya has embarked on a strategic plan to enhance the production of geothermal energy. FILE PHOTO | NMG

In December 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled his five-year plan christened the Big Four Agenda, which he promised to dedicate his time, energy and resources to ensure they are achieved.

The plan is focused on creating 1.3 million manufacturing jobs by 2022, achieving 100 per cent health coverage, expanding food production and building 500,000 affordable houses for Kenyans.

This way, Kenyans will be able to get employment, and the economy will grow further too.

In order for Kenya to deliver on the Big Four Agenda, there is a need to have in place affordable and reliable energy. KenGen, the country’s leading energy producer, has already plugged into this agenda and is undertaking projects with a total capacity of 720MW to be completed by 2020. Within the next 10 years, the company intends to add an additional 2,569MW to the national grid which will comprise of 2,029MW of geothermal power; 410MW of wind power; 90MW of hydro power and 40 MW of solar photovoltaic power.

Kenya’s geothermal future is bright and a 2016 report by Britain’s Economist Intelligence Unit concurs.

“Falling technological costs, ambitious targets, resource abundance, a pipeline of high-quality projects and support of international donor partners are driving the roll-out of renewable power in Africa. Countries can look to positive experiences in lead markets like South Africa and Kenya for strategies and best practices,” the report says in part. The latest Renewables 2018 Global Status Report places Kenya among countries with the largest amount of geothermal power generating capacity, listing it alongside the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia, Turkey, New Zealand, Mexico, Italy, Iceland and Japan.

The global report estimates the total geothermal power generation capacity to be 12.8GW.

Indeed, countries which have harnessed geothermal energy are enjoying great benefits. According to Jeff Tester, a Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems at Cornell University College of Engineering, Iceland has been able to transform from dependence on imported fossil fuel to renewable energy supply for its electricity and heating.

It achieved this by integrating its geothermal and hydro resources. The United States, one of the world’s largest economies, has an installed capacity of 3,200MW which is equivalent to three nuclear power plants. The Philippines generates 23 per cent of its electricity from geothermal energy which translates to 13 per cent of the country’s power mix, while Indonesia has an installed geothermal power capacity of 1,800MW.

Being aware of the goldmine at hand, Kenya has embarked on a strategic plan to enhance the production of geothermal energy. On the ground is a team comprising project planning experts, geoscientists, infrastructure engineers, environment, health and safety specialists, drilling engineers, logistics experts, equipment maintenance engineers, plant operation engineers and reservoir and steam field engineers.

Also at hand are experts on geothermal energy development who are tasked with the role of advising the country based on their vast experience.

Rebecca Miano, MD KenGen.