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Olkaria III steams off

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 6 – The government has commissioned a power plant which will contribute 48 Megawatts (MW) to the national grid and help improve the electricity supply in the country.

The Olkaria III Geothermal power plant which becomes the first privately financed geothermal power plant in Africa will make use of advanced technology, which meets high standards of environmental practices and comply with local and international regulations.

“The geothermal plant will make significant strides in alleviating Kenya’s dependence on imported oil approximated at 120,000 tons annually,” said Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi.
Geothermal projects avoid the need to import fossil fuels and instead utilize a locally available resource which will improve Kenya’s power supply.

“The power plant will produce over 400 million kilowatt hours of green energy annually,” Murungi said.

Murungi said the plant marks a significant milestone in the development of the power sector in Kenya and urged other investors to follow suit and invest in the energy sector which also gives them an opportunity to make money.

Mr Kiraitu also noted that the government recognizes that energy is a critical input of the economic activity and an important contributor to the success of Kenya Vision 2030.

Kenya’s Least Cost Power Development Plan has ranked geothermal power as the most cost effective and environmentally attractive option for sustainable economic development.

In the Rift Valley alone, geothermal resources are abundant with a productive range of up to 7000 MW.

It is with that in mind that the government formed the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) which will concentrate on geothermal resource assessment and development of steam production.

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The introduction of GDC means that KenGen, Kenya’s power generating company, leaves all geothermal exploration activities to the company although it will continue to run projects that it had already embarked on at Olkaria, Eburru and Menengai.

The move will ease the burden of KenGen in exploration hence give it an opportunity to concentrate on its core business of electricity generation.

GDC as well as the new transmission parastatals are anchored in the Energy Act of 2006.
The current national access to electricity is estimated at 18 per cent but the government, as part of Vision 2030, aims to raise accessibility to 20 per cent by the end of 2010 and 40 per cent by 2012.

The new Rural Electrification Authority (REA) is expected to play a key role in meeting the government’s electrification goal by scaling up connection to the national grid to one million customers by 2012.

GDC is mandated to undertake detailed investigation of sites like Longonot, Suswa, Menengai, Lake Magadi and Lake Bogoria, which have high potential, with a view to drilling.

The scope covers economic and financial analyses of steam reserves to be sold to KenGen and other users.

The current power demand averages 1,150 MW.

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