Nairobi, 11 April 2003 - A plan to dramatically increase the levels of electricity generated from "hot rocks" in Eastern Africa has been drawn up at a key conference held at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Geothermal, which harnesses steam produced by hot rocks deep in the Earth to generate electricity, is a highly promising form of renewable energy.
But until now its potential in the Eastern African Rift Valley region has remained largely untapped.
Government energy experts, scientists, engineers and members of the private sector, today set a "challenging yet achievable target" to develop 1,000 MW of geothermal across Eastern Africa by 2020, equivalent to the electricity needs of several million people in the region. In total, Africa has a potential of up to 7,000MW of untapped geothermal energy resources.
Currently Kenya, which has pioneered geothermal energy in the region, generates 45 MW of electricity from "hot rocks". The delegates, in a final declaration, said: "Geothermal power has proven very reliable. Kenya has used geothermal energy for power generation for 22 years at greater than 97 per cent availability".
The experts emphasized that geothermal energy was clean and, unlike hydro-electricity, was not vulnerable to droughts. It also is not prone to
unpredictable price fluctuations as can be the case with oil-fired power generation.
The meeting, called the Eastern African Geothermal Energy Week, has been aimed at overcoming some of the technological and financial hurdles that have held back geothermal development.
Delegates from countries including the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, pledged to share expertise, bundle together national geothermal initiatives to reduce
development costs, promote public/private partnerships to accelerate geothermal development in the region and lobby donor governments and agencies for increased geothermal financing.
Note to Editors:
The meeting was held as part of a Global Environment Facility (GEF) called Joint Geophysical Imaging Methodology for Geothermal Reservoir Assessment which is being implemented by UNEP.
It has been developed to support some of the key environmental goals of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and is designed to be a blue-print for other regions in Africa.
The project will also make a significant contribution towards meeting the energy part of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) last year, experts believe.
This week's meeting was organized by UNEP, GEF, US Government agencies and the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen).
For more information, please contact: Eric Falt at +254-2-62-3292 or +254-733-682656 (cell); Nick Nuttall at +254-2-62-3084 or +254-733-632755
UNEP News Release