• The recent Paris Agreement calls nations to adopt the use of renewable energy like wind and solar to keep the global warming under 2.0 degrees Celsius.

    Although this is a challenging call to make bearing in mind that global warming is already above 2.0 degrees Celsius, cutting on carbon dioxide emissions through alternative means of producing energy could bring down global warming. Geothermal involves no combustion which accounts for nearly zero air emissions, thus using geothermal energy helps to offset energy-related carbon dioxide.

    The Menengai Geothermal Development Project in Kenya being implemented by the African Development Bank (AfDB) in partnership with the Climate Investment Funds, the French Development Agency, the European Investment Bank and the Government of Kenya is the first project to be approved under the Climate Investment Funds’ Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program for low-income countries.

    In a statement by AfDB, the project that begun in 2011 has helped diversify Kenya’s energy mix; provide clean, reliable, low-cost power; and strengthen the national grid by increasing national installed renewable power by approximately 10%, consistent with Kenya’s green growth vision.

    One of the biggest challenge in Kenya’s energy is the over-reliance on hydropower which according to data provides energy to half of Kenya’s installed capacity. The fact there is no reserve margin for reduced hydropower generation in times of drought, means the government must take up the cost of emergency generation, putting a large financial burden on the nation. The cost of production of hydropower among other challenges makes it a less-viable long term solution to the country’s energy needs.

    Investing largely in geothermal energy, according to AfDB, and exploiting the resource’s full potential could see production increased five times the population’s entire demand. Currently the country only uses about 13% of power supply from geothermal energy.

    Geothermal energy not only guarantees continuous supply of power but also ensures that companies that largely depend on it do not suffer due to power outages as in the current situation.

    The AfDB project aims to develop the Menengai geothermal steam field to produce enough steam for 400 MW of power that will be generated by the private sector as independent power producers.

    Menengai project has helped establish, and has been the first project to test, a new model to fast-track the development of geothermal resources in the East African Rift Valley.

    Once completed, the project will have increased additional energy supply to meet the needs of 500,000 Kenyan households, 300,000 small businesses and 1,000 GWh for other businesses and industries. Moreover 2 million tons of CO² per annum will be avoided to get into the atmosphere

    AfDB says that the experiences learned from this project will contribute towards future geothermal plans in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Comoros and Djibouti.

    The $149 million-project is set in such a way that the financing of the early stage and high-risk activities mainly related to drilling will be done by finance institutions, such as the AfDB. This will pave way for private investors to come in and convert the steam into power. AfDB contributes up to $124 million towards the project, while the Climate Investment Funds tops up the remaining $25 million.

    Image Credit: Green Energy Group