At the end of his three-day trip to Africa, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) spoke out in favor of significantly greater use of geothermal energy as an energy source in Germany. "Geothermal energy is possible in many more places in Germany than many people think today," he said on Saturday when he visited Africa's largest geothermal plant in Kenya. The potential is also estimated to be very large in Germany. Therefore, all geodata and information would now be collected "so that the courage grows" to exploit these energy sources, some of which lie kilometers deep in the earth.
After a short visit to Ethiopia, Scholz arrived in Kenya on Thursday evening. The visit to the geothermal plant in Olkaria, around 120 kilometers north-west of Nairobi, was the last item on his agenda before he flew back to Berlin. The five power plants on the edge of Hell's Gate National Park produce almost half of the electricity consumed in Kenya. Kenya's location along the East African Rift Valley, which was formed when the Arabian tectonic plate separated from the African tectonic plate, and the region's volcanic activity offer ideal conditions for harnessing geothermal energy. The potential of geothermal energy there is estimated at 10 gigawatts. However, it is still unclear whether this can also be used in its entirety.
Learn from Kenya
Germany can learn from Kenya when it comes to using its natural resources, Scholz said: "In Germany we don't have any volcanic regions like this one, but we have many areas and landscapes in which geothermal energy has good prerequisites." Therefore, the potential of the technology in Germany should be reassessed again, said Scholz: "The potential is rated very high. With modern technology, we also have the opportunity to better determine whether drilling will be successful."
Both heat and electricity can be obtained from geothermal energy. Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger announced at the beginning of the year an offensive to expand geothermal energy in Germany. Politics, science and business could join forces to "raise this energy treasure" and turn it into an indispensable form of energy.
In deep geothermal energy, geothermal energy is used through drillings down to a depth of several kilometers. According to a study by several large German research centers, this could cover more than a quarter of Germany's annual heat requirements. According to earlier information from the Ministry of Research, at least 100 additional geothermal projects are to be initiated by 2030.
Kenya faster than planned
The Chancellor also acknowledged that Kenya - faster than planned - should get all of its electricity production from renewable sources by 2030. "We have now made the decisions everywhere that are necessary so that we can achieve a pace to achieve our ambitious climate goals," Scholz said in reference to the Federal Republic. By 2030, Germany will be able to produce 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Kenya's pioneering role must also be seen in context. According to the International Organization for Renewable Energies, the country only produces around 12 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity, while Germany, which is much more industrialized, produces almost 50 times as much.
Germany's involvement in green energy projects in Kenya - especially in the field of geothermal energy - has a long tradition. For more than 20 years, Germany has been investing in such projects, for example through the state development bank KfW and the Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). Germany also invested millions in the construction of the Olkaria geothermal plant.
In the future, Germany also wants to focus on establishing a hydrogen economy in Kenya. It is currently still questionable whether Germany can benefit from hydrogen imports from Kenya in the medium term. For Kenya, however, the green hydrogen that is produced with renewable electricity offers great potential. Above all, this includes the production of climate-friendly fertilizers for agriculture. Natural gas is still required for hydrogen production. Agriculture is a key economic sector in the East African country.
Kenya's President William Ruto already acknowledged Germany's support for the green energy industry on Friday: "The fact that 92 percent of the electricity from renewable sources flows through our grid is due to the substantial contributions made by German technology and German investments." At the same time, Ruto called on German politicians to do more internationally to ensure that the industrialized countries provide more investment in green energy projects in the Global South.