Lack of electricity locks people in poverty – low-carbon energy is the key


Funding geothermal and solar energy projects can help to provide clean, reliable, renewable power to people, boosting green growth and reducing poverty

Steam billows from an energy plant in a stretch of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, about 180km north of the capital, Nairobi. But the white clouds rising from the tidy grid of pipes aren’t a sign of polluting greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. They are a signal that the country of more than 44 million, where some 65% of the population does not have access to electricity, is one giant step closer to delivering clean, reliable, renewable power to its people.

The first phase of the $746m Menengai geothermal development project is well under way, with already proven steam resources capable of generating 130 megawatts of electricity and working toward commissioning the first power plants in 2016.

At its full 400MW potential, the project aims to provide stable, low-cost power to about 500,000 households and 300,000 businesses, and avoid nearly 2m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

The expansion of Menengai is just one of many projects the government is pursuing as part of its plan to generate 5,500MW of geothermal power by 2031. Kenya’s current geothermal capacity is 595MW, but the ministry of energy estimates the country has the potential to produce about 10,000MW.

Across Africa and around the world, low-carbon renewable energy is emerging as the go-to green growth and poverty reduction strategy. Kenya’s neighbours Ethiopia and Tanzania are also pursuing geothermal power, while countries in the Middle East and north Africa are focusing their efforts on expanding solar power. Still others are exploring mini-grid and off-grid solutions in wind and solar to supply the poorest and hardest-to-reach rural communities.

More than 1 billion people worldwide still lack access to electricity that could enable them to light their homes, cook or pump clean water.

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