Some 90km and 180km northwest of Nairobi, at Olkaria and Menengai, respectively, lies Kenya's answers to clean energy sources. Here, in the volcanic calderas, are to be found geothermal wells providing low carbon energy and boosting a resource-efficient green economy.
The Olkaria Geothermal Power Plant, commissioned in 1981, supplies 200MW to the national grid. More geothermal generation will come on stream in coming years.
Apart from several Independent Power Producers (IPPs), Kenya has four major interrelated power companies involved in the energy business. These are: Kenya Electricity Generation Company (KenGen), responsible for publicly funded power generation projects; Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO), tasked with accelerating "the development of transmission infrastructure"; Kenya Power, which "transmits, distributes and retails electricity"; and lately the Geothermal Development Company (GDC), mandated to "develop steam fields to promote geothermal energy and reduce over-dependence on hydro power." Both KETRACO and GDC were incorporated by the government in 2008.
With the global challenge posed by climate change, Kenyan has been reaching out to its traditional development partners and the private sector to boost its renewable energy sector while pursuing a clean energy policy.
The country's principal geothermal energy agency, the GDC, was created with the aim of fast-tracking green energy. Since 2009, it has conducted surveys seeking to tap steam energy benefits and widening Kenya's energy resource base. GDC's sole responsibility is to drill, tap and harness steam, after which KenGen or IPPs are invited to put up conventional geothermal power plants and generate the power.
In 2010, GDC shipped in two drilling rigs from China Petroleum Technology and Development Corporation and within a year had found enough steam to warrant an installation of a major power plant.
Kenya's demand for power has been rising at 8% yearly thanks to its growing economy. KenGen, the country's electricity generating company, says about 800MW of power is needed annually to meet demand. At present Kenya has 1,600MW of installed power capacity, with projections that by 2018 demand will have shot to 15,000MW. The country is hoping to generate 4,700MW from geothermal wells in Kenya's Rift Valley, which is said to have an overall potential of producing between 7,000MW and 10,000MW of power.
Kenya hopes to spend some $i.4bn to...