15 June 2012

East Africa: U.S., Geothermal Firms Partner to Provide Energy in East Africa

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Washington — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Geothermal Energy Association signed an agreement June 14 to develop geothermal resources in East Africa.

At the annual meeting in Washington of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum, USAID's Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa, Michael Curtis, and Karl Gawell, executive director of the U.S. Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), said the region's resources have the potential to address power shortages in countries along the Rift Valley.

"America is a leader in geothermal energy technology, and the utilization of this type of clean energy is relatively untapped in Africa," said Michael Curtis. "This partnership offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. geothermal companies to become major players in East Africa."

Power is among the biggest challenges to developing Africa's infrastructure. Electricity is more expensive in Africa than anywhere in the world, and in response to recent droughts, many African governments have had to rely on more expensive, less clean oil-fired generation. There is increasing interest by governments in the region to developing clean, renewable, alternative sources of energy.

"This partnership is not just between USAID and GEA, but between America and the people of East Africa. Developing the tremendous, virtually untapped geothermal resources of East Africa will have huge benefit to the region, and U.S. firms have the expertise and experience to help," Gawell said.

"Together, we can get the job done and bring clean, reliable power to millions of people," he said.

To address these challenges, USAID plans to provide funding to make the world-class U.S. geothermal expertise available to the East Africa region and, in the process, allow U.S. companies to become more familiar with business opportunities in the East African marketplace.

In announcing the public-private partnership agreement, USAID stressed that it is a win-win situation, in which East African countries will benefit from U.S. expertise, and U.S. companies will benefit from increased exposure and market reach into East Africa.

The geothermal program for East Africa ultimately aims to decrease the costs associated with grid-based power generation systems, train host-country geoscientists and engineers, build host government and private-sector capacity, create U.S. jobs and attract private investment into the region.

The AGOA Forum, formally the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, is meeting in Washington June 14-15.

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