African countries should exploit their geothermal energy potential in order to cater for the growing demand of electricity, which is partly driven by the continent’s sustained robust growth, according to industry experts.
The experts made the call yesterday during the seventh African Geothermal Conference (ARGeo-C7).
For example, they said, the Great Africa Rift Valley alone has over 20,000MW of geothermal energy yet only a fraction of that is exploited.
Kenya is the only country in the region advanced in geothermal, which generates for it 676 MW.
Geothermal is an indigenous and reliable renewable energy and should be a key ally in realising a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green and Circular Economy, according to experts.
With 25 per cent of the African population having access to electricity and more than 70 per cent depending on traditional biomass fuels which cause widespread deforestation, erosion and loss of fertility of arable land, geothermal is seen as a safer alternative.
According to Cheikh Bedda, the Director of Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission, there is need for political will and commitment to ensure Public-Private Partnership in geothermal development.
Africa needs between $60 billion and $90 billion annually to address its energy shortfall, and roughly quadruple the 2014 investment levels.
Energy poverty also remains a serious obstacle to economic and human development in most parts of the continent.
According to Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, the Regional Director of UN Environment in Africa, governments should be ready to remove barriers that can hinder the attraction of private investors if they are to succeed in geothermal development.
“Public investment cannot really achieve those targets, no private sector can come on board if the risks are not mitigated, if the environment is not conducive and if there is no incentive for them to come, the private sector will only come for profit,” she said
Rwanda’s Minister for Infrastructure Claver Gatete said that geothermal energy is reliable, safe and has minimum impact on environment.
“We rarely talk about geothermal energy and I think it is important that we are discussing it now,” he said
He said the forum was a key platform to discuss the future of energy in Africa as a continent that needs to take a leap to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
“It is also an excellent opportunity and the right platform for networking and sharing experiences and practices in geothermal science and technology to develop this unique resource in the world,” said the minister.
He added that in Rwanda there is a positive indicator of geothermal potential, but that there is a need for further studies on resource exploitation and development.
“This requires collaboration with regional and international experts for technical assistance to make sure that this resource is exploited and developed,” he added
Bringing together over 500 energy experts, the three-day meeting is running under the theme “Seizing the moment: Investing in geothermal for sustainable development.”