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UN agency unveils plan to use hot rocks to generate electricity in eastern Africa

UN agency unveils plan to use hot rocks to generate electricity in eastern Africa

In a promising form of renewable energy, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today unveiled a new plan to use the steam produced by hot rocks buried within the earth to generate electricity in eastern Africa.

UNEP said energy experts, scientists and private sector representatives drew up the geothermal plan to dramatically increase the levels of electricity generated from hot rocks during the Eastern Africa Geothermal Energy meeting held this week in Nairobi, Kenya.

Unlike hydro-electricity or oil-fired generators, geothermal energy is not vulnerable to droughts or prone to unpredictable price fluctuations, experts at the meeting stressed.

"Geothermal power has proven reliable. Kenya has used geothermal energy for power generation for 22 years at greater than 97 per cent availability," stated a final declaration produced by delegates at the meeting. Kenya, the pioneer of geothermal energy in the region, generates 45 megawatts of electricity from hot rocks according to UNEP.

The delegates also set the "challenging yet achievable target" to develop 1,000 megawatts - equivalent to the electricity needs of several million people - of this geothermal across eastern Africa by 2020.

The meeting, organized by UNEP, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), aimed to overcome some of the technological and financial hurdles that have held back geothermal development in the region.