The entry of GDC is a historic one for Kenya. The pursuit of affordable, reliable and clean energy has been elusive to this country for decades.
The search for geothermal energy is not new in Kenya. It started in 1957. But this only yielded a paltry 202MW against a massive potential of 15, 000MW. The speed of harnessing geothermal resources has been too low necessitating the creation of GDC as a Special Purpose Vehicle to FAST TRACK the development of this indigenous, reliable and environmentally- friendly source of electricity.
The creation of GDC was based on the government’s policy on energy as clearly articulated in Sessional paper No. 4 of 2004, and the energy Act No.12 of 2006 which sought to un-bundle the key players in the electricity sector for efficiency.
In Vision 2030, Kenya aspires to become a mid-income economy. The government’s forecast is to generate 10,000 MW of which the geothermal sector is projected to provide more than 5000MW. Today, the total electricity generation in Kenya stands at a mere 1350 MW!
For a long time, Kenya has relied on hydroelectricity. Perennial power outages forced the government to invite emergency power producers who use diesel to generate electricity. This stop-gap measure is a two edged sword. First, it increases the cost of electricity and second, it causes massive pollution.
Formation of GDC
GDC was created in December 2008 as a Special Purpose Vehicle to fast track the development of geothermal resources in the country. It became operational in 2009 following the recruitment of management staff. GDC’s mandate is:
- To promote rapid development of geothermal resources in Kenya through surface exploration and drilling for steam.
- To avail steam to power plant developers (who include KenGen and Independent power producers –IPPs) for electricity generation.
- To manage the geothermal reservoirs ( where steam has been harnessed) to ensure constant supply of steam to KenGen and IPPs power generation
- To promote alternative uses of geothermal resources other than electricity generation. These include green house heating, drying of grains, pasteurizing milk, cooling and heating of rooms, among others.
Prior to the formation of GDC, KenGen has been generating electricity from various sources but majorly from hydro sources. Given that hydro sources are no longer sustainable due to climate variability, the government wants to concentrate on harnessing geothermal resources which are indigenous, reliable and affordable in the long run.
GDC is fast tracking the harnessing of steam so that it will no longer be necessary for KenGen and other IPPs to use diesel to generate electricity. You are aware that thermal power generation has made the cost of electricity too high in addition to being a heavy environmental polluter.
In the last three months, we have already drilled four wells in Olkaria with the intention of supplying enough steam to KenGen for electricity generation. Ultimately we will drill 36 wells which will avail steam equivalent to 280MW.
The relationship between GDC and IPPs, including KenGen is that of a seller-buyer. GDC will drill for steam and sell it to KenGen and IPPs who will generate electricity. GDC is harnessing and availing steam to KenGen and other IPPs who will use that steam to power their turbines and generate electricity. In essence therefore, GDC and KenGen are playing a complimentary role for the benefit of Kenyans with a view to lowering the cost of doing business in Kenya and ultimately powering the realization of Vision 2030.
What is Geothermal Energy?
Geothermal energy is the natural heat stored within the earth’s crust. The energy is manifested on the earth’s surface in form of fumaroles, hot springs and hot and altered grounds. To extract the energy, wells are drilled to tap steam and water at high temperatures (250- 3500C) and pressures (600-1200Psi) at depths of 1- 4km. The steam is directed to a turbine which rotates a generator to produce electricity.
Geothermal energy is also used for other purposes, such as green house heating, drying of grains, pasteurizing milk, cooling and heating of rooms, among others.
What are the Benefits of Geothermal Energy?
- Geothermal energy is indigenous, abundant and renewable.
- Kenya’s Least Cost Power Development Plan has ranked geothermal power as a cost effective source for continued electricity development.
- Geothermal energy is environmentally-friendly unlike coal, diesel or gas-fired electricity generation.
- Geothermal energy is not adversely affected by climatic variability. This enhances its value as Base Load electricity.
Relationship between GDC and KenGen
GDC and KenGen are involved in geothermal development, each with clearly defined responsibilities. GDC is accelerating the harnessing of steam so that it will no longer be necessary for KenGen and independent power producers (IPPs) to use diesel to generate electricity.
GDC is drilling and availing steam to KenGen and other IPPs who will use that steam to generate electricity. In essence therefore, GDC and KenGen are playing a complimentary role to ensure that affordable and reliable electricity is made available.
This will lower the cost of doing business in Kenya, and ultimately power the realization of Vision 2030.