Geothermal energy accounts for about 15% of Kenya’s current power generation

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.

Ministers and technical experts in Ministries of Energy and/ or Mines from the African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) member countries, are meeting at the UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for a High Level Geothermal Meeting

The two-day meeting organized by UNEP in collaboration with the Government of Kenya, Geothermal Development Company (GDC), and Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) is expected to raise awareness and sensitize high level decision makers about the unique development opportunities that geothermal energy presents and how member countries can benefit from ARGeo’s support services, to accelerate the development of their geothermal resources.

Kenya is a concrete example of a country making a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy. Using Kenya as an illustrative Geothermal success story, the ARGeo high level meeting is discussing among other issues, challenges and opportunities for development of geothermal resource in the East African Rift region, strategic approaches in development of geothermal resources, responses of various geothermal programmes to develop geothermal energy, country support for resource mobilization and financing of geothermal projects as well as best practices and lessons to be learnt.

Geothermal energy accounts for about 15% of Kenya’s current power generation in operation, with an estimated potential of 4,000 MW. Preliminary estimates along the whole African Rift indicate that there might be some 6 GW or more of geothermal potential in this region

The ARGeo project was proposed with a view to accelerate the development of this large untapped geothermal resource potential in the East African Rift region.

The meeting will lead to a common understanding of the objectives and outcomes of the ARGeo project and to the development of strategic partnerships and synergies with the other major geothermal support programmes in the region.

As one of its key outcomes, the meeting is expected to result in transfer of adequate knowledge about the objectives and outcomes of the ARGeo project, and development of a strategic framework for ARGeo projects in line with requirements of the other geothermal support programmes in the region.

The meeting includes field visits to the Olkaria geothermal power plant for the High level officials from ARGeo member countries and Menengai geothermal fields for the technical experts.

The African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo) originated from the Eastern Africa Geothermal Market Acceleration Conference held in Nairobi in April 2003. The program was officially launched in November 2010 at the opening session of the Third African Rift Geothermal Conference (ARGeo-C3) in Djibouti. The objective of the project is to promote geothermal resource utilization by reducing the various risks involved, and as a result, attract investors and lower the cost of geothermal power development projects. The project has two main components: (i) A regional networking, information systems and capacity building and a technical assistance program implemented by UNEP/DTIE, and (ii) A Risk Mitigation Fund Component implemented by the World Bank.

The project is supported by GEF with co-funding from the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA), the German Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), the United Nations University-Geothermal Training Programme (UNU-GTP), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Olkaria is the first geothermal field in Africa where geothermal energy resource was utilized for electricity power generation. It has an estimated geothermal potential of more than 1,000 MWe. At present, the current installed capacity is about 209 MWe. 240MWe power development is in progress at Olkaria I and IV due for commissioning in 2013 and a further 50MW at Olkaria III to be commissioned in 2014.

Menengai is the second geothermal field outside of Olkaria geothermal field. Geothermal Development Company (GDC) has completed drilling of two wells and drilling is in progress for two others. The first well is currently under discharge test with output of about 10MW while the second well is heating. It is anticipated that a 5-10MW power plant will be operational at Menengai by 2012.