4 April 2011

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Says Kenya’s Geothermal Developments Start of 20-Year

Journey towards Making Nation ‘Low-Carbon, Resource Efficient, Green’


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the visit to the Olkaria Geothermal Facility, in Naivasha, Kenya, 2 April:

It has been a fascinating privilege to learn today how Kenya is tapping the volcanic heat of the Great Rift Valley to generate electricity.  Kenya is not rich in oil, natural gas or coal reserves.  But it is has a wealth of “clean fuels” — from geothermal energy, to wind, solar and biomass.

The geothermal developments here aim to generate 1,200 megawatts by 2018.  This is, in many ways, the beginning of what promises to be a 20-year journey that could make Kenya a low-carbon, resource-efficient “green economy”.  It is a remarkable story — not just in terms of renewable energy and climate change — but in partnership for development.  It is among a growing number of examples of how the United Nations, the World Bank, donor Governments and the private sector are supporting forward-looking public policies — policies that can help to reduce poverty and lay the foundations for a truly sustainable future.

In the past few days I have learned about the development of the biggest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa — a project in Turkana that will generate more than 300 megawatts.  Kenya’s 2030 vision also includes waste-into-energy projects, co-generation and feed-in tariffs, and ongoing work with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other partners to support the tea industry with small-scale hydropower.  And the United Nations’ own new energy-neutral offices in Gigiri, which we unveiled on Thursday with President [Mwai] Kibaki, underline the viability of solar power.

One of the technical challenges Kenya faces is how to integrate all these emerging components of a renewable energy economy into an efficient, modern distribution network.  While geothermal can provide reliable energy like a coal-fired power station, other renewable resources can be more unpredictable and intermittent.  UNEP and the Global Environment Facility are working with Government, regulators and power companies to address this through improved generation and distribution.  Done efficiently and creatively, this can help to catalyse renewable energy not just in Kenya, but as part of the planned East Africa Power Pool.  As Kenya and many other countries are showing, there is a growing menu of economically viable choices for generating energy.

Next year, Governments meet in Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992.  The Rio Conference is a major opportunity to take stock; to examine how to connect the dots between energy, food, water and climate; to look at how we can grow economies and generate decent employment in a way that keeps humanity’s footprint within planetary boundaries; to explore how to scale up renewable resources and other low-carbon technologies; to mobilize the world in pursuit of truly sustainable development.

I would like to thank the Government of Kenya and the staff here at Olkaria for showing me part of Vision 2030 here in the Rift Valley.  It was here, long ago, where humanity took some of its first faltering steps.  Today, Kenya is helping to evolve the solutions that may help us to thrive long into the future.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record