East Africa can learn a lot from Iceland where more than one quarter of that country’s energy needs are generated by geothermal sources. Geothermal is a renewable resource and an attractive energy option where it is available. Since the 1970s Iceland has relied on geothermal to provide a considerable portion of its energy needs and this could be a model for East Africa, where geothermal potential is abundant. Iceland’s exploitation of geothermal has completely replaced coal, and given rise to business, investment and tourism.
In addition to making electric power from geothermal sources, Iceland uses the waste heat from geothermal power plants to heat over 90% of its buildings at low-cost.
East Africa is an ideal location to tap geothermal power. Specifically Africa’s Rift Valley, which stretches from Djibouti to Mozambique and takes includes parts of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. The region can generate over 14,000 megawatts of geothermal power. That is enough energy to provide electricity to 150 million people.
Kenya is already exploiting geothermal energy with more on the way. In the 1980s, with the help of the World Bank, Kenya built a geothermal plant at the Rift Valley site of Olkaria. In 2010, the country obtained another Bank credit to expand its geothermal capacity by an additional 280 megawatts to add to the 198 megawatts of installed geothermal capacity.
The development of geothermal power can help to provide reliable climate friendly energy to businesses and citizens throughout East Africa.
Kenya is already benefiting from Iceland’s geothermal knowledge and expertise and other African nations, particularly those in the Rift Valley, are wise to follow.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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