What new well means for geothermal growth

The Baringo well bodes well for Kenya and East Africa's energy needs

In Summary

• A new well in the Baringo-Silali Geothermal Project region signals further expansion for the power source

• Experts predict PPPs will drive future geothermal power generation in the country

Geothermal drilling rig
Geothermal drilling rig

The state-owned geothermal drilling company, Geothermal Development Company, has successfully drilled a new geothermal well, Paka Well 8-A, that will add 20MW of power to the national grid. The well is by far the company's largest to date.

The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reported that this marks the 14th successful well at the Paka project, increasing GDC's capacity to 70MW.

Geothermal energy offers Kenya a cheap and quick opportunity to ramp up its base energy supply. 

The country has set an ambitious goal of having geothermal as its primary energy source by 2030.

Currently, geothermal accounts for 39 per cent of total energy production. The country's grid is being adapted to ensure that geothermal sources can easily convey power around the country.

Energy CS Davis Chirchir emphasised the importance of the latest discovery.

“Eventually, you will see the cost of electricity coming down since these transmission links will remove the constraint, which will alleviate power losses that currently stand at 22 per cent,” he stated in the KBC report.

John Mativo, managing director of the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco), said the utility is already working to ensure the power will be harnessed.

"Ketraco plans to build a 197kmtransmission line to Suswa," he said.

While this achievement is significant, more breakthroughs in geothermal energy can be expected, with GDC aiming to attract more investment and build out its exploration capacity.

The country's geothermal energy potential is estimated to be between 7,000 MW and 10,000 MW across 14 potential sites, according to the Renewable Energy Portal.

The company is also conducting feasibility studies to accelerate drilling in the geothermal hub of Baringo.

The East African country had some 950 MW of installed geothermal capacity as of 2023, the highest in Africa and the 8th highest in the world.

Other geothermal hubs in Kenya's Rift Valley region are also making progress, with the successful integration of independent power producer (IPP)-led projects into the main grid.

For example, Nairobi-based energy company Sosian Energy recently connected its Menengai geothermal power plant to the national grid, becoming the first IPP to commission a 35 MW steam power plant at the Menengai site.

Additional power plants in the Menengai region are in the works, including 105 MW in combined capacity from three planned power plants, with UK firm Globeleq already constructing a second plant.

The Rift Valley, where most of the region's geothermal potential is situated, extends from the Horn of Africa to Malawi, and according to the United Nations Environment Programme, the region has a potential geothermal capacity of more than 20 GW.

Kenya is drawing on Private Power Producer agreements to harness its geothermal potential under the PPP Act of 2021. Thirteen IPPs have received approval to develop geothermal projects in various locations.

Experts believe this financing model will play a crucial role in unlocking Kenya's geothermal energy potential over time.

The adoption of PPPs appears to be “a positive effort to accelerate geothermal development in Kenya”.

This is according to a conference research paper titled 'Reinvigorating Geothermal Project Finance in Kenya through Public-Private Partnership', published by Jesse Nyokabi, Sharon Mwakugu, Louise Mathu and Johnson Mwawasi.

“There is an opportunity that PPPs can improve operational efficiency,” the report added.

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