Germany has promised both financial and technical assistance to Kenya to help the nation reach its goal of transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2030. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised Kenya for its robust leadership and investments in geothermal energy, stating that these efforts will significantly contribute to the country’s climate change adaptation strategies. Chancellor Scholz, who spoke during a visit to geothermal facilities in Olkaria, Naivasha on Saturday, affirmed Germany’s commitment to providing financial aid for the modernization of aging turbines in Olkaria, some of which have been in operation for decades. The German Chancellor also expressed support for assisting Kenya in developing a green hydrogen economy, which could be employed in the manufacturing of essential fertilizers for the country’s food security plan.
Geothermal energy is an excellent source of hydrogen, a key component in fertilizer production. It is important to note that Chancellor Scholz’s visit follows President William Ruto’s trip to Germany last month, during which the two nations agreed to enhance cooperation on green hydrogen and create a more conducive business environment to attract German investment in Kenya. Both leaders expressed concerns about the impact of climate change on individuals, communities, and nations, stressing the immediate need for extensive efforts to mitigate climate change consequences. During the visit, Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mr. Davis Chirchir stated that Kenya currently generates 92% of its total energy from green renewable sources, with plans to phase out thermal (fossil) energy by 2030, achieving a 100% renewable energy target. The CS commended Germany for being the largest investor in Kenya’s green renewable energy sector.
Chirchir disclosed that the German government had financed the most recent geothermal project in Silali, Baringo County, at a cost of 80 million euros (approximately Ksh. 12.2 billion). This project has resulted in the development of five wells, generating 45 MW of power. Previously, Germany had provided Kenya with a 45 million euro (Sh. 6.5 billion) loan facility for the expansion of the Olkaria Geothermal Power Station in Naivasha. Chirchir emphasized that geothermal energy is a sustainable resource, unlike other forms of renewable energy such as hydro, wind, and solar, which are affected by climate change. He pointed out that Kenya had recently experienced a severe drought, reducing hydro power production from 800 MW (30% of the country’s power production capacity) to a mere 10%. Geothermal resources, along with an additional 200 MW purchased from Ethiopia via the Suswa line, which utilizes German technology, helped stabilize Kenya’s power supply to the national grid.
Chirchir also mentioned that Kenya currently generates a total of 1,100 MW of geothermal power, including 160 MW from a concessioner, with an additional 450 MW waiting to be integrated into the national grid. He stated, “We shall work together to tap into our potential of nine Gigawatts (GW), equivalent to 9,000 MW of geothermal power, which has already been identified since our country is situated on the ring of fire. From this, we can produce green hydrogen, green ammonium, and fertilizers, among other things.”
Studies indicate that hydrogen gas has been used as fuel for vehicles, airships, and spacecraft since the early 19th century and is a source of clean, renewable energy. Chirchir requested the German government to consider extending the power concession period from 25 years to 30-40 years, which would help reduce power costs. He also noted that, as of the end of 2022, the Kenyan government had connected nine million Kenyans to the national electricity grid, a significant increase from the two million connections in 2002. This progress demonstrates a substantial advancement in the country’s last-mile connectivity initiative. Kenya’s geothermal resources are primarily located within the Rift Valley, with an estimated potential ranging from 7,000 MW to 9,000 MW across 14 prospective sites. Kenya currently has an effective installed (grid-connected) energy capacity of about 2,548 MW, according to data from the Ministry of Energy. The main sources of electricity are hydro and thermal (fossil fuel) sources. 838 MW come from hydropower, 1,100 MW from geothermal, 2% from biogas cogeneration, 437 MW from wind, and 173 MW from solar power make up the energy generation mix.