Sunday, 8 March 2015

Great East African Rift Valley- Changing the Course for Geothermal Energy



For years, Great East African Rift Valley has been the main route of the study of human evolution providing magnificent discoveries such as Luci  and the very recent known jawbones in Ledi Geraru of Afar regional state of Ethiopia.
Although it has not been exploited to the full scale, the tourism potential of the East African Rift Valley is astonishing. The spectacular scenery is worth spending time for anyone who wishes to see and study the nature of our earth. The active and semi active volcanoes, that I call the earth's breathing spots, the many hot springs, the strings of great lakes and the wide variety of fauna and flora along the length of the East African Rift Valley will be a wonderful experience to watch. When you are there, it looks that the earth is going to split in two in seconds and swamp you forever but soon you feel better when you see people spending their whole life inside the dip valley.

The Denakil Depression  including Erta Ale, the area that contains the trisection point of the three moving plates of Nubia, Somalia, and Arabia will remain the geologic wonders of the world although it requires to weigh a tone of braveness to witness at first hand.

As far as Ethiopia is concerned, the beautiful and springing towns of Adama/Nazret, Hawasa and Arbaminch, not to mention, Ziway, Wolata sodo and Asela, will offer you an immediate stop the sooner you wish to take a break from the  hot and eye catching valley.

The energy potential of the East African Rift valley has been unnoticed or underestimated for many years, however. Technological and financial constraints coupled with low overall capacity of the nations in the region could also be the main barriers for the low level of development of the handy energy resource.

The quest for alternative energy to crude oil and carbon to meet the ever rising demand and hence the advance in technology and the relatively growing capability of the nations in the region are paving the way forward for the development of the obvious but untapped geothermal energy in the valley.

Once developed, geothermal energy is used as a based load and as a back up to other energy sources particularly to hydro that is affected by climate variations.The near zero CO2 emission, and the renewable nature of the resource is attracting international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the USA'S multilateral government agencies through  Power Africa Initiative for funding and technical assistance to the countries in the region. 

Kenya has been leading in tapping the resource developing about 590 MW of installed capacity  up to now and Ethiopia is following suite inking a land mark agreement with Rekjavik Geothermal the later being an independent power producer, IPP, to upgrade the existing 7 MW power plant up to 1000 MW in the long term for the first time in the country. Ethiopia has been actively engaged in the development of renewable energy resources as part of its climate resilience green economy strategy, geothermal being one of the main focuses.

As the identified potential areas are developed and the countries learn from them, there will be more engagement throughout the region for geothermal energy resources development there by consequently opening the door for more business opportunities in the future. Take a close note of the sector!


Tigabu Atalo
Power and Energy Consultant, and
Experienced Projects Manager

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