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  • Writer's picturebird story agency

Kenya’s rise as a regional geothermal power.

As African countries warm to geothermal energy, the continent’s largest producer is positioning itself as a key role player in the industry, using its knowledge and experience to bag drilling contracts in Djibouti, Ethiopia, while also eyeing Sudan, Rwanda and DR Congo.


**By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency**


Kenya is looking to grow its geothermal talent pool to capitalize on rising commercial drilling contracts in East Africa, as governments in the region warm up to renewable energy in the race to net zero emissions.

Energy producer KenGen has floated a tender for the construction of a geothermal training center, a multi-million dollar development with the potential to strengthen Kenya’s pole position as Africa’s leader in geothermal production.


The project, funded by the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) is already looking for prime contractors.


“The Bidders shall also demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the employer, that it has adequate sources of finance to meet the cash flow requirements on works currently in progress and for future contract commitments,” according to the tender document.


The qualified firms must demonstrate having an annual turnover of 8 million US dollars and have handled at least five similar projects, each valued at over 4.5 million US dollars.


New training facilities will comprise of, amongst others, lecture and administration facilities, a workshop and laboratory blocks. It will also have male and female student hostels, a villa and a dining area. The facility is projected to take nine months to complete, following the award of the contract to the developer.


This is just one indication that the company is expanding its current talent capacity to accommodate the growing demand for Kenya’s geothermal exploration expertise.


“The Centre currently plays a major role in training and development of a critical mass of professionals and resource persons in the energy sector within the continent. This will aid in accelerating efforts towards energy resource exploration and development across the continent,” KenGen said on its website.


Lately, Kenya’s expertise in geothermal has attracted the interest of neighbouring countries - some with huge geothermal potential - as governments turn to green energy to power industrial growth and light homes.


Kenya’s rise as a regional geothermal power. [Graphics: Hope Mukami]


Over the last three years, Kenya has bagged multi-million dollar drilling contracts accross the region, making geothermal a significant export revenue generator for KenGen.


In 2019, the company secured a 5.8 million US dollar contract to drill 12 geothermal wells in Ethiopia and in February 2021 it won a 6.6 million US dollar contract to drill wells in Djibouti.


KenGen has affirmed it is investing in experts with considerable experience in geothermal exploration with a commitment to build capacities for teams working on its projects in neighbouring countries, as part of the country's strategy to aid partners around the continent exploit green energy resources.


During the 10th edition of G2G Global Innovation Seminar held in July 2022, KenGen Chief Executive Officer, Rebecca Miano said the firm is focusing on non-energy generation revenue sources - including drilling, consultancy and training - by leveraging on its equipment and technical skills over the next decade.


“KenGen is embarking on a path of curious discovery with business diversification which we have identified as our way of life,” said Miano.


Apart from Ethiopia and Djibouti, the company has its eyes firmly fixed on Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan for more geothermal drilling contracts. In Sudan and Rwanda, the company has already conducted geoscientific research.


Kenya is the continent’s leader in geothermal energy production and ranked among world’s top 10. Increased investment has seen the East African economy climb global rankings, with recently-commissioned geothermal stations taking Kenya's capacity closer to the geothermal "Gigawatt club".


“The commissioning of Olkaria I Unit 6 propels us an inch closer to the Geothermal Gigawatt Club,” said KenGen Board Chairman, Gen. (Rtd) Samson Mwathethe.


In July, Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned an additional 86 MW of geothermal for the national grid, from unit 6 of KenGen’s Olkaria 1 power plant, following the commissioning of another 172 MW from the Olkaria V geothermal Power project, developed and completed in 2019 by KenGen, taking the company’s total capacity to 799 MW.


“It represents an important moment in our efforts to reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels and create a more sustainable future for us all,” said Kenya’s Energy Cabinet Secretary, Monica Juma.


Kenya’s Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority placed the country’s installed geothermal capacity by June 2021 at just over 863 MW. Of this, KenGen contributed 82.6 percent, while the remaining 150MW came from Independent Power Producers.


The International Renewable Energy Agency's, Renewable Energy Statistics 2022 ranks Kenya’s 863MW geothermal capacity at position seven globally.


The USA tops the ranks, with 3,889 MW, followed by Indonesia (2,277MW), the Philippines (1,928MW) and Turkey (1,676MW) respectively.


New Zealand (1,237MW) and Mexico (1,034) were also above Kenya, in fifth and sixth places.


Below Kenya are Italy (772MW), Iceland (756MW) and Japan (481MW) completing the world "top 10" with the largest installed capacities.


In East Africa, KenGen’s (1,904MW) installed generation capacity is more than 60 percent market share with more than 86 percent drawn from green sources - Hydro (826MW), Geothermal (799MW), Thermal (253MW) and Wind (26MW).


**bird story agency**

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