Kenya’s current electrical power demand is about 1.8 gigawatts per year, and yet their geothermal potential is 7.2 gigawatts, according to a recent article on an African news site. With a geothermal potential four times greater than their current electricity usage level, it appears Kenya has a bright future in terms of renewable energy development. Currently woodfuel represents about 68% of primary energy consumption, meaning wood gathered from forests for burning. Cutting forests for such short-term use though is quite damaging, as it reduces rainfall and dries out the land. Climate change is already having the same effects, so cutting forests only adds to the problem.
Just about ten percent of Kenyan homes have electrical power. A new one billion dollar geothermal plant should come online by 2013, and will generate over 200 megawatts of electricity. Currently a little over half of Kenya’s electricity is generated by hydroelectric dams, but drought conditions have reduced water levels, and output from turbines. Some of their lakes and rivers have decreased water levels, and if climate change continues to dry areas where hydroelectric dams get their water, geothermal appears even more viable for the long-term.
A UN official said, “There are least 4,000 MW of electricity ready for harvesting along the Rift. It is time to take this technology off the back burner in order to power livelihoods, fuel development and reduce dependence on polluting and unpredictable fossil fuels.” (Source: UN)
One editorial claims some time after 2030 Kenya will need nuclear power also, but if they develop their geothermal carefully and add solar and wind power, the nuclear option might not be necessary. The Kenyan population is growing by about 2.6% a year, and currently is 39 million.
Image Credit: Lydur Skulason