Geothermal heat brings power to Kenya

Long celebrated for its natural beauty, Kenya is a country in the throes of industrialization and modernization—and that requires electrification. Today, despite two decades of robust economic growth, sub-Saharan Africa remains the most under-electrified region on Earth, with an estimated 600 million people who still lack power. The 48 countries in the region, excluding South Africa, together have less than half the generating capacity of Spain. In Kenya in 2010, 33 million people lacked electricity in their homes.

But by 2016, according to the most recent World Bank data, that number had fallen to less than 22 million—even as the country added another seven million people to its population, now around 51 million. The percentage of Kenyans with access to electricity nearly tripled during that period, from 19 percent to 56 percent.

The government’s goal is universal access by 2020. No country on Earth has made more rapid progress lately than Kenya toward that key developmental milestone.

A key reason is the rapid expansion of geothermal power generation. Geothermal electricity, mostly produced in Olkaria, now accounts for 28 percent of Kenya’s grid capacity, and its importance is only set to grow. It’s relatively clean and low-carbon, and in the long run it’s relatively cheap. And unlike other renewable sources such as solar, wind, and even hydro, geothermal is available year-round and around the clock. On some days right now, half the power used in Kenya comes from inside the earth.

Read more at National Geographic (Jonathan W. Rosen)

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