[dehai-news] (Guardian, UK) East African geothermal tests 'successful'


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Thu Dec 11 2008 - 08:13:45 EST


East African geothermal tests 'successful' The Rift Valley in Kenya could
have the potential
>From *SciDev.Net* part of the *Guardian Environment Network*
guardian.co.uk, Thursday December 11 2008 12.26 GMT

Geothermal energy generation in Africa could take a leap forward in 2009
after exploratory studies in Kenya exceeded all expectations, it was
announced Tuesday.

A new enterprise - the African Rift Geothermal Development Facility (ARGeo)
- will drive forward the plan to harvest the steam locked among the rocks
under East Africa, according to leaders of the Global Environment Facility
(GEF) and the UN Environment Program (UNEP). They made their announcement at
the UN Climate Change Conference, in Poznan, Poland.

"Geothermal is 100% indigenous, environmentally friendly and a technology
that has been underutilised for too long," said Achim Steiner, executive
director of UNEP.

"Combating climate change while simultaneously getting energy to the two
billion people without access to it are among the central challenges of this
generation," he added.

Over the last three years, GEF has funded a US$1m (670,000) project in
Kenya to identify promising new drilling sites. Although there are already
two geothermal sites near Nairobi, Kenya, the main challenge to expansion in
the country, and elsewhere along the Rift, has been the risk associated with
drilling and the high costs if steam is not found.

The project harnessed new technologies to locate promising sites. Steiner
said that the Rift Valley is now thought to have the potential to generate
at least 4,000 megawatts of electricity.

"We have shown that geothermal electricity generation is not only
technologically viable but also cost-effective," said Monique Barbut, chief
executive officer of GEF.

The results mean that ARGeo can now expand geothermal projects up and down
the Rift, which runs from Mozambique in the south to Djibouti in the north.
The organisation is charged with raising private sector and public
investment in selected geothermal sites in ARGeo countries as well as
"creating an enabling environment for geothermal investments".

Participating countries will include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.
KenGen (a Kenyan company), Germany and Iceland will also be involved.

ARGeo is receiving US$18m from the GEF, and is also supported by UNEP and
the World Bank. Barbut told SciDev.Net that it is now expected to find
private investment too.

But Sandy Gauntlett, of the nongovernmental organisation the Global Forest
Coalition, told SciDev.Net that geothermal energy should be seen only as one
option in a range of many clean energies that now run the risk of being
ignored.

This article was shared by our content partner SciDev.Net, a member of the
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/network>Guardian Environment Network

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