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Geothermal Energy in Africa

Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 16 Dec 2008

The "UN Environment Program (UNEP) is optimistic about geothermal energy in Africa, as well as Ormat Technologies." While all other resources on the continent are shipped off, geothermal energy is an energy type that cannot be exported and "will benefit local residents first."

Everyone reads these days about cholera spreading in Zimbabwe, civil war in Congo and continuing genocide in Darfur. But people also look at positive things developing that are based in Africa.

As a new article by Daily Markets cites, the “UN Environment Program (UNEP) is optimistic about geothermal energy in Africa, as well as Ormat Technologies.” While all other resources on the continent are shipped off, geothermal energy is an energy type that cannot be exported and “will benefit local residents first.”

UNEP head Achim Steiner puts it that “geothermal is 100 percent indigenous, environmentally-friendly and a technology that has been underutilized for too long”. In East Africa, Steiner says the steam power generated from drilling deep into the Great Rift Valley can jump-start local economic activity. From a hub in Kenya, current pilot projects will be expanded internationally.

Right now, Kenya only gets 1,000 MW out of 4,000 MW potential geothermal capacity, with most of the country’s power coming from hydroelectric dams. In 2009, Kenya’s domestic geothermal production is set to ramp up and spread into Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania.

New testing and drilling methods are already being introduced to Kenya under a million-dollar UN-funded project, and $17 million more has been alloted by the World Bank to expand into the other five countries.

Geothermal is “part of Africa’s future,” Steiner reiterated. We hope so, but there are some geopolitical sticking points to keep in mind. The Great Rift valley is socially tumultuous, the latest reminder were the battle over the contested presidential elections in Kenya in January 2008. But there is another country that could join the geothermal club. Sudan will most likely see some geothermal exploration in 2009.

The UN will continue playing an important part, as the article puts it, but private companies will play a more important role. As an example the article compares the US$ 150 million investments by Ormat Technologies in the Olkaria Plant in Kenya, with the UN’s investment goal of US$ 18 million.

Source: Daily Markets

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