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The role of Japanese companies in Kenya’s geothermal development

Olkaria I Geothermal Plant (Source: Toshiba Press Release)
Alexander Richter 19 Mar 2018

With great support by its government in the form of export funding, Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi and Toshiba have been able to dominate the supply of turbines and other equipment for Kenya's geothermal development.

Today we reported on the new concessional loan provided by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to KenGen for the refurbishment of the Olkaria I geothermal units in Kenya. In this context it might be a good idea giving some background on the important role of Japan in the geothermal development in Kenya,

With the possibility to back up bids for supplying geothermal turbines to Kenya with government funding through its International Cooperation Agency JICA, Japan’s companies have had so far a clear advantage over various other potential suppliers in any of the bidding processes for geothermal turbines in Kenya.

So it might not be surprising to see how Japanese companies have been the key suppliers for the geothermal build up in the country,

Having supplied turbines and other heavy duty equipment, Japanese companies like Mitsubishi, Toyota Tsusho, Toshiba and others have essentially ruled the market..

Toyota Tsusho constructed additional Units IV and V at Olkaria I, which is set for an upgrade, while Toshiba supplied turbines.

More recent, KenGen contracted a consortium comprising Mitsubishi to construct the 158 MW Olkaria V geothermal power plant in Naivasha. It will be completed mid-2019, with Mitsubishi also supplying the turbines.

Toyota Tsusho, along with Korean firm Hyundai, constructed the 280 MW geothermal power plants in Olkaria (Olkaria I Unit IV and V and Olkaria and Olkaria IV Unit 1 and 2) belonging to KenGen, which was added to the national grid in the second half of 2014 and 2015. The turbines and generators were supplied by Toshiba.

With an installed geothermal power generation capacity of 676 MW, Kenya has a lot more in the pipeline. Private operator Ormat is expanding its Olkaria III plant and KenGen has another 12 projects going on that could add up around 600 MW until 2021. Additional development by private developers e.g. in Menengai, could add up to 200 MW. So while Kenya currently is ranked no. 9 in geothermal power generation capacity worldwide it could move up quite a bit with the ongoing development.

Japan on the other hand, once one of the key geothermal countries, is not living up to its potential and is acting mostly as an exporter. That is actually sad given the great potential of the country.

Source: Business Daily Africa