Kenya: Geothermal Power Will Cut Cost of Electricity


Recently, sections of the press reported that the Geothermal Development Company has realised 479MW in Olkaria and Menengai geothermal projects. Ironically, the same script noted that GDC has not achieved anything since its creation five years ago.

To argue that GDC’s achievement is unimpressive is being grossly naïve, ignorant or malicious. Those in the know will confirm that to develop 479MW is no mean fete. It is a product of massive infrastructural works, rigorous scientific studies, and donkey years of intense operations. Just imagine, 50 years since independence, Kenya’s total electricity output is still a wobbly 1,700MW. Yet the 479MW that GDC has achieved in the last five years or so, is about a third of the national grid.

That is why GDC’s starlet accomplishment is nothing but electrifying news from the energy sector. Kenya will dramatically cut the cost of electricity once power companies start to generate electricity using the 479MW in Olkaria and Menengai geothermal fields.

A further injection of 479 MW will also stabilise the national electricity grid. It guarantees reliability, a critical prerequisite for industrialisation, which Kenya so hankers for.

Principally, give credit to GDC. To develop a new geothermal field like Menengai is no walk in the park. To develop a new geothermal field like Menengai is no walk in the park. The scientific exploration period alone takes almost a year. This is followed by years of heavy infrastructural endeavours like construction of new roads, water reticulation systems, drilling boreholes for water supply and construction of water tanks.

Besides, the rigours of procuring a rig and its accessories are painstakingly intense. It takes almost a year to manufacture a rig.

What do we gain in muddling with the noble efforts of the geothermal enterprise?

KenGen is ready to buy the GDC steam to generate 280MWe at Olkaria I and IV power plants. This generation is set for the end of 2014. In Menengai, where GDC opened the green field in 2010, the firm will generate 100 MWe by mid next year.

It is not lost on GDC that quick cheap electricity is needed like yesterday. That is why GDC is speeding up the process. It has awarded contracts to three private investors to construct well-head power plants in Menengai.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich is expected to sign agreements on two development projects in the energy and water sector with Germany. A 25 million Euro loan by the German Development Bank (KfW) to the Nairobi Water Distribution Project will provide water supply to under-served areas. Germany will also support Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company with 2.3 million Euros. Germany through the Development Bank KfW will finance the drilling of 20 wells for the Bogoria-Silali geothermal electricity project at a cost of 80 million Euros to increase electricity.