Kenya has been using geothermal energy since the 1960s. In 2008, 17% of its electricity was generated from geothermal energy (see Kenya – climate and energy statistics). This is impressive, but was based on only about 200Mw of installed capacity. Kenya has around 10Gw of geothermal power potential, so there is scope for enormous expansion.
Just over 40% or Kenya’s electricity came from large hydro in 2008. This is not cheap to build and has significant environmental impacts, as well as impacts on the local population. It is also obviously vulnerable to drought. Just under 40% of electricity come from oil, which Kenya has to import. However, most of the energy used in Kenya is in the form of firewood for heating and cooking. This deforestation has severe effects on local climates and is also bad for the global climate. In addition, it also means hard work for those who have to gather the firewood – often women and children.
So, there are strong climate, energy security and social reasons for Kenya to harness more of its geothermal energy. This week an expansion of the largest geothermal power plant, Olkaria, has been announced. The current 48Mw plant will get an additional 36Mw of capacity, scheduled to become operational by 2013 (see PennEnergy: Ormat signs 20-year PPA for 36MW expansion of geothermal complex in Kenya).
A much larger project is also underway: drilling for an 800Mw geothermal plant on the Menengai Crater in Nakuru. This is intended to reach 400Mw capacity by 2014 and 800Mw by 2016. The Kenyan government is paying for this (see Daily Nation: All set for Kenya geothermal project.)