Geothermal sure option to stem the energy crisis

Olkaria geothermal plant

KenGen workers test a sample of condensed steam at Olkaria geothermal plant, in Naivasha.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In the face of the recent severe drought and its devastating effects on Kenyans, investing in sustainable energy sources is crucial. Before, the country’s energy supply, which was heavily reliant on inconsistent rainfall for hydroelectric power, would have been crippled. Power rationing, prolonged outages and blackouts would have plagued homes.

Thankfully, Kenya has made significant strides in geothermal power production, surpassing hydroelectricity as the primary source of electricity. Geothermal power plants generate 45 per cent of its electricity in a good month and hydroelectric units 44 per cent.

The shift in electricity production is a testament to heavy investment in geothermal energy, which provides a reliable and sustainable option to overcome the challenges posed by low hydrology.

Kenya is in the top 10 global geothermal energy producers. Unlike fossil fuels, this is a renewable source harnessed from the earth’s core heat, unaffected by external factors like climate change and weather variations. Its advantages are vast and far-reaching.

Deplete natural resources

First, unlike finite fossil fuels, which account for approximately 70 per cent of the planet’s carbon footprint, geothermal is sustainable and renewable and doesn’t deplete natural resources.

Geothermal energy holds the key to overcoming Kenya’s energy crisis. Diversifying the energy mix and reducing dependence on rainfall can ensure a stable and uninterrupted power supply for households, businesses and industries. Moreover, the environmental benefits align with the country’s commitment to mitigating climate change and achieving sustainable development goals.

As a strategy for energy security, geothermal energy is a cost-effective. Although the initial investment in its infrastructure can be substantial, the long-term operational costs are comparatively low. The Olkaria I power plant, commissioned in 1981, exemplifies its longevity with a lifespan of up to 50 years.

Geothermal energy is also reliable. Unlike weather-dependent technologies, it is available 24/7, making it an ideal source of baseload power. Amid growth in the population and demand for electricity, it plays a pivotal role in the country’s energy mix.

Prioritised expansion

Kenya has been a leader in geothermal energy since the 1970s, continually improving and expanding its renewable energy efforts. The Olkaria Geothermal Field is one of the largest with KenGen leading the way by producing 799MW of clean energy.

In recent years, the government has prioritised the expansion of geothermal energy production. Support from esteemed organisations has enabled KenGen to enhance its capacity and reduce its carbon footprint. An example is the recently commissioned 86MW Olkaria I additional Unit 6 power plant.

Despite the remarkable progress in geothermal energy production, there remains vast potential for expansion. With an estimated potential exceeding 10,000MW, Kenya can continue leading the charge in geothermal energy production and utilisation.

Mr Serem is the acting managing director and CEO of KenGen PLC. md&[email protected]. @Seremtoek