African Countries agree to enhance cooperation on geothermal development

By agency reporter
November 13, 2020

More than 500 experts, governments, civil society, academia and private sector representatives from Africa and other regions have agreed on an agenda of regional cooperation and accelerating geothermal development in Africa. The agreement was reached as the Eighth African Rift Geothermal Conference concluded on 6 November 2020.

Participants recognised the need for capacity development for geothermal practitioners to ensure effective development of these projects through the newly established Africa Geothermal Centre of Excellence. 

The five-day virtual conference, held under the theme 'Energy and sustainability, seizing the moment to invest in geothermal resources for sustainable development', was hosted by the Government of Kenya in partnership with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the African branch of the International Geothermal Association, the Kenya Electricity Generating Company, the Geothermal Development Company as well as the Geothermal Association of Kenya.

In his opening remarks, Charles Keter, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Energy, emphasised the need for innovation and capacity building in geothermal development to power economic and social growth in the continent. “This Conference provides Kenya with a platform to build partnerships with other African countries who are in various stages of geothermal development, and to deepen cooperation in skill, capacity and technology transfer,” Keter said.

Participants recognised direct use of geothermal resources as a potential game-changer for the economies and livelihoods of rural communities across the continent through meaningful participation of communities in the development and implementation of geothermal projects.

Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director and Regional Representative for UNEP’s Africa Office, pointed out that the conference and its outcomes would contribute to the achievement of the Goal 7 of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), on affordable and clean energy.

“Renewable energy can and will change the African energy challenges and narrative. Energy-use statistics in Africa reveal a worrying scenario; Africa has 13 per cent of the global population, yet its share in global electricity consumption is less than three per cent, and only 25 per cent of Africans have access to electricity. More than 70 per cent of Africa is dependent on traditional biomass fuels”, she said.

Delegates agreed to increase geothermal resources installed by a capacity of at least 2,500MW of electricity in the region by 2030. Geothermal stakeholders will continue collaborating with UNEP under the ARGeo programme to create regional networking platforms to raise awareness about geothermal resource potential in Africa.

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former President of Iceland, also addressed the conference, revealing that his country’s rapid industrial development was spurred by its investment in renewable energy projects from the development of geothermal energy. “We advocate for food production to be part of the geothermal development dimension. Solar, wind power and geothermal energy is the foundation to help us fight the pandemic of fossil fuel pollution and dirty energy, which kills as many as approximately 7 million people around the world. We are determined to continue this geothermal cooperation with African countries”, he said.

In her remarks during the virtual conference, Amani Abu-Zeid, the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Energy and Infrastructure said the AU recognises the need for regional cooperation, as well as the participation of the private sector and international institutions to invest in order to accelerate the development of geothermal resources in the region. She affirmed the need to develop the skills of homegrown experts through regional institutions, and also emphasised the need for women to be present and visible throughout the geothermal value chain.

Delegates also agreed to work through the newly launched Africa Women Advancing Geothermal as well as the African Geothermal Association to enhance cooperation and information exchange in the region.

* UN Environment Programme https://www.unep.org/

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