Graft is eating into Kenya’s geothermal potential
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12 تشرين2/نوفمبر 2018
Author :   Karitu Njagi
A geothermal wellhead in Olkaria, in Kenya's Rift Valley : >> Image Credits by:Isaiah Esipisu

 

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Kenya has the potential to generate about 15,000 gigawatts of geothermal power by 2030, placing it ahead of other Eastern Africa countries in the renewable energy race.

To achieve this energy mile however, the country will have to reduce the lengthy process involved in establishing a geothermal plant, a new report says.

According to the Nordic Green to Scale for Countries technical report released recently in Nairobi, it takes between five to seven years for any country in Eastern Africa to establish a geothermal plant.

This is because none of the governments in the region have the equipment, technology and expertise to develop this source of power, and have to rely on imports, says the report by researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

“The venture is also capital-intensive, leaving only established private companies to pursue this development opportunity,” the report says.

But the government has not actively involved the private sector in this sector, a situation that could explain the bureaucracy involved in geothermal development in the country, argues Mbeo Ogeya, a research fellow at SEI.

Yet Kenya is being considered as a host for the Africa Geothermal Centre of Excellence by the UN Environment, says Ogeya.

“The government needs to actively encourage private sector engagement by for instance zero rating the equipment and appliances for geothermal generation if the country is to achieve its full potential,” says Ogeya.

Corruption is another setback that is delaying geothermal development in the country, according to local media reports.

In 2016, top officials at the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) were hounded out of office and are facing corruption related cases.

Auditor-General reports also say GDC failed to pay Ksh. 1.4 billion in corporate taxes in 2015, and was slapped with penalty of Ksh. 405.6 million.

Yet GDC remains one of the best funded state companies, where Treasury allocates it Ksh. 7 billion from the national budget every year.

“The research is right, the policy is correct, but the approach in implementing both policy and research is where we miss the point,” says Ogeya.

Among the policy recommendations by the report is for the government to provide concessional loans and letters of guarantee to private developers in Kenya.

This will reduce the risk of investment, hence encourage private sector actors to be involved, argues the report.

It also challenges the government to introduce regulations supporting the assembling of geothermal equipment in the country

“This will encourage growth of local industries and involvement of local actors along the geothermal value chain,” says the report.

Kenya is leading in geothermal power generation in the region but the country has only exploited 0.62 gigawatts of the natural resource, the report says.

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