Kenya sees geothermal growing to 4,000 MW

NAIROBI, KENYA - Kenya plans to boost geothermal power generation to 4,000 megawatts by 2030 and the company responsible needs about $240 million annually to drill wells and harness steam, its chief executive said.

The government estimates east Africa's largest economy has the potential to produce 7,000 MW of electricity from geothermal energy. It currently generates 167 MW from the source.

Silas Simiyu, managing director of state-run Geothermal Development Company (GDC), said the firm plans to buy 12 drilling rigs, sink 60 wells annually and install well head generators.

"In essence our plan is that every year we should be able to install 200 MW of new power from geothermal," Simiyu told Reuters in an interview.

"This will enable the Geothermal Development Company to put online about 1,000 MW in the next five years, and 2,000 MW in the next 10 years and then in the next 20 years we will have the 4,000 MW."

Geothermal power comes from steam made from underground water heated by the earth's core in Kenya's Rift Valley, which is used to drive turbines.

Simiyu said the company planned to drill wells and install the plants before handing them over to investors.

"This will entail the Geothermal Development Company spending about $240 million annually... that is being raised for the first five years," he said, adding that GDC hoped to be self sufficient in funding thereafter.

The government has given GDC a guarantee of about 20 billion shillings (US$268 million) per year to help offset the initial drilling costs, Simiyu said.

GDC has acquired two drilling rigs and the French Development Agency has pledged 60 million euros (US$89 million) for two more. The firm is also negotiating with Exim Bank of China to get three additional rigs.

Simiyu said the company was seeking funds for the remaining five rigs.

Chinese company Great Wall Drilling has sunk 21 wells in Olkaria under a previous agreement with the government, and planned 26 more, Simiyu said.

U.S., European and local companies were interested in investing in the project, he said, declining to name the companies.

GDC hopes to tap into funds raised from the government's infrastructure bond offered earlier this month, he said.


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