In Kenya, the Menengaï Geothermal Plant, Funded By the African Development Bank, Is Helping 500,000 Households Overcome a Severe Electricity Shortage

9 October 2020
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African Development Bank (Abidjan)

In six years, Kenya has more than tripled production, from 198 to nearly 672 megawatts (MW), becoming Africa's leading producer of geothermal energy in the process. The commissioning of the Menengaï geothermal power plant enabled the East African country to eliminate its electricity deficit to overcome the severe shortages it experienced in the late 2000s.

The Menengaï Geothermal Development Project, with $108 million in funding from the African Development Bank, has added 105 MW of geothermal production capacity to the national electricity grid, with participation by three private companies.

For the implementation of the plant, 50 wells were targeted to generate enough steam to produce more than 100 MW. Some 49 wells had been drilled through the end of November 2019, with a capacity of 169.9 MW. The results exceeded the initial estimated capacity. In addition, CO2 emissions are expected to be reduced by 600,000 tonnes from 2022.

During the construction phase of the plant, 94 staff members received training in drilling, contracting and financing, as well as health and safety management. Around 44% of trained members are women. In addition, 249 staff members of the Geothermal Development Society, including 93 women, received group training. The construction of the power plant benefits about 500,000 Kenyans, including 70,000 in rural areas of the country, as well as businesses and industries. More than 600 jobs have been created.

"The ultimate goal of the project was to help Kenya overcome severe electricity shortages caused by variability of hydropower generation, which forced the country to resort to expensive backup thermal production between 2011 and 2012, and which continued through 2018," according to a Bank project completion report.

In 2011, Kenya embarked on an ambitious path of renewable energy development with the adoption of the Low-Cost Electricity Development Plan for 2011-2031. This plan has been updated annually to increase power generation capacity from 1,227 MW in 2010 to 3,751 MW in 2018. In order to electrify the country and meet growing demand, significant renewable energy generation capacity must be added to Kenya's national grid.

The country's Medium-Term Plan 2008-2012 and its successors, PMT-II (2013-2018) and PMT-III (2018-2022), all part of the so-called Vision 2030 development plan, aim to increase the country's electricity generation capacity to 5,521 MW by the end of 2022.

The PMT-III also aims to promote the development and use of renewable energy sources to create a reliable, good-quality and cost-effective electricity system to support industrial development. To achieve this ambitious and transformative plan, Kenya has turned to the African Development Bank as one of its preferred financial partners.

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