Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KENGEN) has launched the construction of an 83 MegaWatts geothermal plant in Olkaria, Naivasha. The proposed plant is expected to increase the country’s geothermal power output on its completion in 2021. Kenya is currently the largest producer of geothermal energy in Africa. As at the end of June 2016, 55 percent of Kenyans were connected to the country’s national grid. Kenya’s current effective (grid connected) electricity capacity is 2,351 MW, with a peak demand of 1,802 MW as at June 2018.
The Olkaria 1 additional unit 6 plant will pump an additional 83 MW into the country’s national grid. Kengen said that the plant will push up its geothermal capacity that currently stands at 533.8MW following the completion of Olkaria 1, 4, and 5 plants that are also due for expansion. Following the full operationalization of the 280 MW geothermal plant in Olkaria, the national electricity consumption by mode is 47 percent geothermal, 39 percent hydro, 13 percent thermal and one percent wind. The company expects to generate an additional 2,029 MW from geothermal by 2028.
Geothermal power plants, which convert steam generation from hot rocks deep underground into electricity, have a prominent place in Kenya’s overarching development plans. Geothermal power has the potential to provide reliable, cost-competitive, baseload power with a small carbon footprint, and reduces vulnerability to climate by diversifying power supply away from hydropower, which currently provides the majority of Kenya’s electricity. Kenya has set out ambitious targets for geothermal energy. It aims to expand its production capacity to 5,000 MW by 2030, with a medium-term target of installing 1,887 MW by 2017.
During the Olkaria project groundbreaking ceremony yesterday, President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged Kengen for its contribution to Kenya’s energy security. “Kengen is planning to add another 720 MW to the national grid in the medium term, mainly from green sources.”
“These plans resonate well with our development agenda which heavily depends on energy for actualization. Besides, geothermal, which is one of Kenya’s major sources, is a stable source of energy,” he added.
The contract for engineering, procurement, and construction of the new power plant is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the European Investment Bank and is being built by Japan’s Marubeni Corporation.
Energy cabinet secretary Charles Keter said the Kenyan government has formulated strategies geared towards rapidly expanding the country’s power capacity.
“These strategies will further expand and upgrade transmission and distribution networks and also develop renewable sources of energy,” he added.
Kengen Managing Director Rebecca Miano said the additional power plant was aligned to the company’s long-term strategy for ensuring a sustainable supply of renewable energy.
“KenGen has realized incremental growth in geothermal power, a major catalyst in meeting the country’s growing electricity demand,” she said.