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Geothermal Country Overview: Kenya

Kenya, as the largest geothermal producer in Africa, is blessed with geothermal potential. It is mainly due to its favorable location within the East African Rift Valley, expanding from north to the south of the country. Kenya is currently the ninth country in the world with respect to geothermal energy production. Estimated geothermal potential of Kenya amounts to between 7,000 MW to 10,000 MW and is spread over 14 prospective geothermal sites. As of 2019, Kenya has over 690 MW of installed geothermal capacity (more than 20% of total electricity generation in the country) and just by 2030, it is planned to increase this amount to over 5,000 MW, making geothermal resources Kenya’s largest source of energy. This plan is a part of the Kenya Vision 2030 program, which highlights the country’s ambition to become a middle-income country by 2030.

Kenya has recently pushed hard its geothermal capabilities, with a significant increase of the geothermal electricity generation from 45 MW in 1985 to 690 MW in 2019, with nearly 400 MW being connected in 2014. Geothermal power production is operated by Kenya Electricity Generating Company Limited (KenGen), a public company under the Ministry of Energy of Kenya. KenGen currently produces approximately 80% of the total interconnected power supply in Kenya. Exploration for geothermal recourses in Kenya started in the 1960s with two wells drilled at Olkaria field. Exploration continued throughout the 1970s with first deep geothermal wells. The 1980s resulted in the first electricity generating unit in Kenya and simultaneously first in Africa.

Fig. 1. Geothermal plant at Olkaria, Kenya (source: GEG/Lydur Skulason)

Direct geothermal uses in Kenya slowly gain wider popularity with various applications in agriculture, crop drying, space heating and industrial processes e.g. milk processing units. It is known, that African indigenous communities have used geothermal energy, mainly hot springs, as soon as in the early 19th century. In 2013 a geothermal spa was constructed and open to the public by KenGen company, utilizing water from a nearby well with a water temperature of approximately 100°C. As for now, it is the only natural spa in Africa.

Fig. 2. Olkaria geothermal spa (Mangi, 2017)

Geothermal energy production in Kenya has numerous advantages amongst other sources of electricity as it is not affected by drought and climatic variability, has the highest availability, is green, readily available and has no negative effects on the environment. As for today, Kenya lacks electricity with only 40% of its population having reliable access to electricity. Geothermal resources are regarded as a promising source of energy for a country that is expected to double its population by 2050.

The concludes our Geothermal Country Overview on Kenya. Check back weekly as we update our blog with new #geothermalfactsandstats and follow us on all the major social media platforms.

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Author: Michal Kruszewski