Kenya is world's fifth geothermal powerhouse


A Geothermal Power plant

According to data deciphered from Kengen and Orpower4, Kenya’s leading geothermal power generators, the country has joined the top five largest producers of geothermal power in the world.  The data shows that Kenya’s total geothermal capacity is well past 1000MW, it now stands at 1125 MW.  It is already in the 1GW club!

 This upends the the current global ranking which places Kenya at the seventh slot by ThinkGeoEnergy. The firm ranks Kenya number seven with an installed capacity of 861 MW. However, our analysis shows that, the data on which this ranking is based, is outdated.

 But the confusion, our survey reveals, is of the generators’ making for they do not regularly update their data. Kengen’s website www.Kengen.co.ke for instance has two sets of data; one says that its installed capacity is 706 MW, and another that lists seven power stations with a total 975 MW capacity. In addition, the data ignores the 150 MW produced by Orpower4. Even here, the data commonly available shows that OrPower4 generates, 139MW. A visit to their parent company, Ormat Technologies, www.Ormat.com, shows that the Kenyan operation’s installed capacity is 150 MW.

Going by the data in the two companies’ books,  which we treat as the actual position, then Kengen and Orpower4 cumulatively produce 1125 MW, placing Kenya on the fifth slot a head of New Zealand.

 This discrepancy raises questions about the accuracy of the data on geothermal power generation capacity in the world.  It also raises questions about the ranking of geothermal powerhouses.  Emerging evidence suggests that the data is at best estimates and may be far from accurate. They are at best, pointers to the direction geothermal power generation capacity is going.

Confusion in geothermal reporting is common. For instance, in their 2020 rankings, Think Geoenergy, www.thinkgeoenergy.com, a website that tracks developments in the geothermal power sector, cites unreliable data as a problem in the ranking. They admit the data may not always be accurate because of the different reporting methodologies.

In its report, the site ranks Kenya as the seventh-largest powerhouse in the world, with an installed capacity of 861 MW.

However, last year, Kengen commissioned two plants with a total capacity of 234 MW but the site says the commissioned stations added 193.3 MW. In its April 2019 report, which lifted Kenya’s ranking to the eighth slot in the world, after the commissioning of a 79MW plant, the site also reported that “ Kenya will launch another station of the same capacity(79MW)” by September last year. The station commissioned has a capacity of 165 MW.

 Going by the actual data then Kenya has leapfrogged Italy, Mexico, and New Zealand to join the 1 GW club of geothermal producers. The others are; The US 3.7 GW, Indonesia 2.1 GW, Philippines 1.9 GW, Turkey 1.5 GW and New Zealand 1.0 GW.   

 Kenya, with a geothermal potential estimated at 10,000MW has an aggressive plan to generate at least 5 GW of geothermal power by 2030. KenGen, the leading power generator, plans to add another 1,745 Megawatts by 2025. Coupled with generation from IPPs, this will raise its geothermal generating capacity, bringing Kenya neck to neck with the top generators such as Indonesia, Philippines, and Turkey.

All these are within Kenya’s sight given its penchant for large capacity plants. Currently, there are four firms contracted to generate more than 400 MW of geothermal power in the near future. These are; Suswa 300MW and Menengai GDC field 105 MW.

The IPPs at Menengai are expected to finalize their deal soon given that phase of the project, which involved drilling and the steam-gathering system is complete. A report by Africa Development Bank, suggest that these Menengai plant could be operational in 2021/22.


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