Highlighting this year’s participants were East African power utilities, investors, and technology and service providers, and a major focus was to continue the planning of Kenya’s proposed 5000 MW plan. The project will aim to provide the Great Rift Valley with 5000 MW of geothermal energy by 2030. However, to achieve this goal, Kenya must decide between respecting land rights of Maasai herdsman who have long inhabited much of the Great Rift Valley, or tapping into a reserve of almost 600 megawatts lying deep beneath the area’s pastureland.
The region contains such a high ceiling for geothermal energy usage that development seems almost inevitable. “Hot springs and fumaroles, the cracks in the earth's crust that belch steam, indicate that magma-heated rocks are only a mile below, close enough to be tapped for lucrative geothermal energy” (csmoniter.com). However, some worry that Kenya’s efforts to “clean up East Africa” will be contradictory if it violates the rights of the Maasai people in the process.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Kenya has much of a choice. With only 15% of its citizens connected to the national power grid, this clean energy source could drastically improve the nation’s public health. Kenya’s largest source of renewable energy is currently hydropower however this brings about complications of its own. “With hydropower susceptible to weather trends, the country has outlined a shift to greater reliance on alternative power sources” (african-utility-week.com).
An increased reliability on geothermal sources could solve many energy issues in Kenya and the rest of East Africa however one question needs to be asked before proceeding with the process- do the ends justify the means? Well, according to this year’s Power Industry Convention participants, the answer is yes.