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Kenya’s renewable energy sector attracts foreign interest

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 3 – Kenya’s nascent renewable energy sector has attracted foreign interest, with 20 British companies in the country looking to invest and develop the industry.

Led by Greg Barker, Britain’s Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, a delegation of UK’s leading renewable energy developers, financial services firms and insurance industry players, is seeking to partner in low carbon growth in the region.

Barker says with Africa’s largest wind farm in the Lake Turkana region already in the works and set for completion in 2014, Kenya has set out a clear path for its growth in Vision 2030.

“You’ve got probably the world’s largest single source for geothermal in the Rift Valley. There are companies from Britain that are ready to participate,” he said.

Kenya’s geothermal industry he added has the capacity to produce enough energy to power its own and its neighbour’s needs.

The estimated resource potential of the country’s geothermal energy is about 10,000 MW, with the cost of development of that kind of capacity pegged at Sh339.9 million ($4 million) per MW.

“This would only be achieved within a reasonable time frame with private sector participation. Under Vision 2030 Kenya aims to generate 5,000 MW of low carbon energy from geothermal resources at an estimated cost of $20 million (Sh1.7 billion),” Energy Permanent Secretary Patrick Nyoike said during a network event hosting the British firms on Wednesday.

KenGen is already developing 560MW of power plants at Olkaria for commissioning in 2015-2018, while the Geothermal Development Company is currently developing 1,600MW at Menengai and 3,000MW at Bogoria-Silali Block.

Currently just about 30 percent of Kenya’s population is supplied with electricity.

The government wants to connect an average 250,000 additional customers annually, a trend that is expected to increase the current peak power demand from 1,300MW to 5,000MW by 2020 and eventually to 17,000MW by 2030.

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With Kenya heavily dependent on drought prone hydro power and the continuous threat climate change poses to the country’s power generation, the British government has committed $4.5 billion (Sh381 billion) to fight climate change in developing economies.

“We want to use that ($4.5b) and private sector funding to identify opportunities in developing economies that promote renewable energy and climate adaptation projects. We think Kenya is one of the best places to start,” Barker said.

The climate financing is part of the UK’s International Climate Fund meant to support green energy projects in developing countries for the period up to 2015.

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