Geothermal to power Kenya’s future


Geothermal well at Olkaria. FILE PHOTO | NMG

As the world moves towards a new regime of electric vehicles (EVs), chances are, your future car will be powered not by fossil fuel but by geothermal electricity, say from Menengai in Nakuru or Paka in Baringo.

Even your favourite food will be cooked by geothermal power. Already most of your electricity for lighting and industrial production is from geothermal.

Here’s why: The world, Kenya included, is on an epic journey of decarbonisation. Now we’re at the energy transition juncture. And for Africa, since COP27 will take place in Egypt later in the year, it means a just transition. For Kenya, geothermal is our anchor.

Our national Power and Transmission Masterplan dentifies geothermal energy as the least-cost and environmentally friendly choice for new electricity generation.

Geothermal is indigenous and abundant. Its centrality in the larger scheme of things — going green and building a resilient economic environment — cannot be gainsaid.

And it fits well in the mix of sustainable development goals (SDG7) on energy. Indeed, a robust geothermal environment will accelerate energy access, cut costs, and improve lifestyles. The versatile nature of geothermal is incredible.

This informs our pursuit of innovative enterprises to holistically utilise the resource. Since only 20 percent of heat from steam is used to generate electricity, 80 percent has been going to waste.

GDC is designing projects that will utilise part of the 80 percent. We’re adopting technology that will capture and deploy the heat for horticulture farming, leisure and recreation and industrial processes.

Today, for instance, we are pasturising milk at Menengai using geothermal heat. It’s profitable. Scaled up, investors in dairy have a goldmine. That’s why we’re in an MoU with the county governments of Nakuru and Baringo to establish geothermal resource heat parks.

Such parks will attract investors in the manufacturing sector angling for affordable and reliable heat. That way, we shall further help to decarbonise the economy and open vast new job opportunities.

This reality puts a lot of expectation on our shoulders as core industry actors. We’re rolling out an elaborate development mechanism that will support the implementation of this strategic quest. Our projects in Menengai, Paka, Silali and Korosi are all promising.

Of course, geothermal is one of the jewels in the green energy assemblage. That is why we’re also alive to the realities of SDG 13 that calls for “urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.

Indeed, our medium target of availing 1065 MW by 2030 means that Kenya will escape using 1.8 million tons of heavy oil per year to generate power.

The country will also save about $1 trillion for not using diesel to generate an equivalent amount of power. Furthermore, even at 90 percent availability, the 1065MW geothermal power will displace an equivalent of 4. 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

That’s massive. It’s a direct inhibitor of Greenhouse Gases (GHE). By every measure, geothermal energy is the holy grail. It is at the core of green infrastructure architecture.