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Feb 07, 2013

AfDB to boost geothermal power development in East Africa

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Building on the success of its 400 MW Menengai geothermal project, in Kenya, the African Development Bank (AfDB) is focusing on developing Tanzania’s geothermal potential, with the required institutional framework and concrete geothermal sites already identified.

The AfDB was leading the development of scaling-up the renewable-energy programme of the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds, which would include the financing of a geothermal development project.

This formed part of the development finance institution’s geothermal development programme for Africa, which saw it working on a series of small-scale geothermal units, adapted to the specific context of each country of the East African Rift Valley that had geothermal potential.

The AfDB was also currently busy with the development of a 50 MW power plant, in the Lac Assal region of Djibouti, while playing a central role in defining a geothermal development roadmap in Ethiopia.

Additionally, the bank had started the identification process of a site for a 20 MW geothermal plant in the Comoros.

“Our ambition is to support the accelerated development of the large untapped geothermal resource potential in the Eastern Africa region. Geothermal development has been relatively limited in this region in the past.

“Only about 217 MW of geothermal energy has been developed so far, most of it in Kenya. This is insignificant compared with the region’s huge potential, estimated at 10 000 MW in Kenya alone,” AfDB resident representative in Tanzania Tonia Kandiero said.

A new model had emerged to fast-track the development of geothermal resources in the East African Rift Valley and the financing of the early stage and high-risk activities mainly related to drilling by development finance institutions using concessional financing.

The financing would go to a special purpose company in charge of undertaking the drilling activities and taking most of the drilling risk.

“An eloquent illustration of this new model is the Menengai geothermal development project in Kenya, which the AfDB  has recently supported with about $150-million highly concessional financing from its own resources blended with climate investment funds,” AfDB senior power engineer Thierno Bah explained.

Once completed, the Menengai project was expected to created significant development opportunities for Kenyan citizens by increasing the energy supply in the country by an amount equivalent to the current consumption needs of 500 000 Kenyan households, 300 000 small businesses and some 1 000 GWh for other businesses and industries.

The project would displace around two-million tons of carbon dioxide a year, significantly contributing to the fight against climate change.

Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
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