Bank to spur geothermal energy in East Africa

AfDB is focusing on developing the geothermal energy potential in the East African Rift Valley. FILE PHOTO.

What you need to know:

Risk. The probability of hitting dry wells during the exploration is one of the risks.

Tunis. The African Development Bank is working on an ambitious geothermal development programme for East Africa.

The AfDB is working on a series of small-scale geothermal units, adapted to the specific context of each country of the East African Rift Valley with geothermal potential.

It is currently working with the government of Djibouti on the development of a 50 MW power plant in the LacAssal region. In Ethiopia, the AfDB has played a leading role in defining ageothermal development roadmap.

In Tanzania, the AfDB is leading the development of the scaling-up renewable energy programme of the Climate Investment Funds, which will include the financing of a geothermal development project. In the Comoros, the AfDB has started the identification process for a 20 MW geothermal plant, matching the needs of the archipelago.

As explained by Mr Tonia Kandiero, the AfDB resident representative in Tanzania, during the fourth African Rift Geothermal Conference held in November 2012, in Nairobi, “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 being in Kenya. This is insignificant compared to the region’s huge potential, estimated at 10,000 MW in Kenya alone.”

For Mr Youssef Arfaoui, the chief renewable energy expert, “The African Development Bank is now pushing the geothermal agenda to overcome the several risks associated with geothermal development, among which the most important one is the exploratory drilling risk, related to the probability of hitting dry wells during the exploration and appraisal drilling phase. The mitigation of the risks will also make off-taker and consumer tariffs affordable.”

A new model has emerged to fast-track the development of geothermal resources in the East African RiftValley.