by Purity Ngasi, Energy Engineer, Operations & Maintenance Administrator
Kenya is racing against time to kick off its achievements against Vision 2030 on SDG7, affordable and clean energy. Kenya boasts of its geothermal development and is ranked first in Africa and seventh in the world, with an installed capacity of 953.7MW.
Geothermal energy is heat from the earth used for electricity generation and direct use (IRENA, 2020). It is a renewable energy source as heat within the crust continuously flows toward the surface.
Data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows increased Geothermal energy development in the East Africa, mainly Kenya, which has operational geothermal power plants for electricity generation and direct use.
As of December 2022, Kenya’s total installed capacity of renewable energy sources was 2,613. With a Geothermal capacity of 953.7MW, accounting for 36.49% of Kenya’s energy mix (EPRA, 2022).
Policies & regulatory framework
The Energy Act 2019 provides for creation of regulations to govern the exploration and utilization of geothermal energy through direct use. It offers the roles of the national and county government in the utilization and licenses of geothermal resources in the country (Energy Act, 2019).
The Feed-in-tariff system is established under Section 91, Part IV of the Energy Act No.1 of 2019. It enhances renewable energy development in Kenya by guaranteeing a pre-determined tariff for producers for 20 years. The 2021 FIT policy is limited to renewable energy projects such as geothermal.
The Public Private Partnership (PPP) Act No.15 of 2013 focuses on private sector engagement in financing and developing public infrastructure projects such as geothermal.
Projects and capacity building
Kenya has developed many geothermal projects, such as Olkaria I to Olkaria V. The Olkaria Geothermal Power Plants is the largest geothermal project in Kenya, owned and operated by Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen).
Figure 1:Cumulative geothermal installed capacity trends for Kenya (IRENA,2020)
Currently, KenGen is exploring 305MW geothermal projects, with 280MW from upgrades at Olkaria and 25MW from the Eburru geothermal field. Geothermal Development Company (GDC) is developing the Baringo-Silali project, which has an estimated potential of 3000MW (African Business, 2023). Additionally, Kenya is gearing up to build a 35MW geothermal power plant at Menengai Steam field. Geothermal energy is used in electricity generation and direct uses such as agriculture, heating buildings, and milk pasteurization.
Kenya has invested highly in implementing capacity building by sharing geothermal knowledge and skills through training services. KenGen, GDC, and UNESCO have contributed to capacity building and awareness of geothermal energy through training programs. The training involves the local communities and public institutions, thus, increasing awareness, social acceptance, and opportunities for direct use projects Excellence.
Financing approaches such as grants, public sources, and concessional funds have ensured geothermal development in Kenya. The public finance has ensured the development of the Olkaria projects and established the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) mandate to undertake early-stage geothermal development (resource exploration).
Grants such as CDM funding have contributed to funding Geothermal projects such as Olkaria II, Olkaria IV, and Olkaria I. The projects are estimated to ensure certified emission reductions of 78,640 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per annum (Kollikho, 2009). The Global Environment Facility (GEF) funding has assisted in covering the difficult part of geothermal development, such as prospecting, surface exploration, and discovery drilling (GEF, 2016).
Concessional funds such as the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Finnfund are financing the 35MW geothermal power plant at Menengai steam field (IRENA,2020). The European Investment Bank, the World Bank, and Japan International Cooperation Agency finance the later stages of geothermal projects (production and power plant construction).
Future for expansion
Kenya desires to expand its geothermal power capacity and transform to 100% clean energy by 2030. Kenya’s vision for 2030 is to have 5530MW of geothermal power capacity, and the National Energy Policy sets an ambitious goal to contribute to its expansion. The government estimates 10,000MW of untapped geothermal energy, enough to power the country’s recent peak demand five times, spread out across the Rift Valley region.
Purity Ngasi is an Energy Engineer passionate about clean energy and advisory. She is a graduate of Kenyatta University and holds a Bachelor of Science in Energy Technology. She is a sustainability practitioner with 2+ years of experience in renewable energy, passionate about accelerating access to electrification and the Productive Use of Renewable Energy (PURE). She has contributed to the solar industry by ensuring energy access through grid-tied, off-grid, and hybrid grid installations, commissioning, management, and operations & maintenance. As an operations & maintenance specialist in the industry, her knowledge has contributed to identifying opportunities such as power stabilization to ensure quality power supply to businesses and mitigate power surges and sags. As a Sustainable development goals (SDG) advocate, she likes researching and understanding the current market trends, climate actions, innovative ways, and increasing awareness about clean energy.
- African Business (IATF) 2023. https://african.business/2023/06/resources/kengen-targets-3000mw-of-renewable-energy-in-decade
- Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) Biannual reports https://gak.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/EPRA-new-biannual-report-2022-2023.pdf
- Energy Act 2019. http://kenyalaw.org/kl/fileadmin/pdfdownloads/Acts/2019/EnergyAct__No.1of2019.PDF
- GEF, 2016. Global Environment Facility. Kenya: Transformative support.
- International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). 2020 https://www.irena.org/Publications/2020/Nov/Geothermal-development-in-Eastern-Africa
- Kollikho Pius, 2009. CDM Financing for Future Geothermal Projects In Kenya https://orkustofnun.is/gogn/unu-gtp-sc/UNU-GTP-SC-11-38.pdf
- Ministry of Energy of Kenya (2021)Feed-In-Tariffs Policy On Renewable Energy Resource Generated Electricity