In Kenya, only 65% of Kenyans have access to basic energy services; however, in recent years the Kenyan government has made plans to capitalize on the country’s untapped store of geothermal electricity. Kenya’s current geothermal capacity is 241 MW, but the government hopes to increase capacity to 5,530 MW by 2030 – close to a 21-fold increase in the country’s geothermal output.  

To aid its geothermal initiative, the Kenyan government received $25 million from the Climate Investment Funds for its Menengai project. Current projections suggest that from 2017 the geothermal plant in Menengai will feed 400 MW annually into Kenya’s grid. This capacity increase will bring the country 13% closer to its 2030 geothermal target: a considerable achievement for the CIF and Kenya.

To help replicate this success in the future, project participants from the CIF, AfDB, civil society, and the Geothermal Development Company (GDC) (the public body overseeing its implementation) came together to share lessons learned. The meeting took the form of a panel discussion at the CSO forum side event at the AfDB annual meeting in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.

The panelists were:

  • Judy Ndichu, a former CIF Observer for Transparency International;
  • Joseph Kitilit, GDC engineer;
  • Zhihong Zhang, CIF Scaling-up Renewable Energy Program (SREP) Senior Coordinator;
  • Alex Rugamba, Director of Energy, Environment and Climate Change (ONEC), AfDB; and
  • Solomon Asamoah, Vice-President of Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration, AfDB.

Lisa Elges of Transparency International served as moderator for the discussion.

CSO forum Kenya

 

The session provided five key lessons:

1. Stakeholder engagement requires a multilevel effort

As part of its commitment to sustainable development, AfDB has set operational procedures to engage with civil society effectively. Meanwhile, the Kenyan constitution demands that local government is consulted throughout development projects. Also, GDC follows both a “community engagement policy” and a “stakeholder engagement policy” at both the design and implementation phases of its projects.

2. Civil society must be engaged from the start of the process

Joseph Kitilit explained that GDC sought civil society participation from the very beginning of the project. Consequently, GDC tailored the project design and implementation to create local benefits in the areas of security, employment, and health. Also, by increasing its store of local knowledge, GDC was able to better pre-empt and address implementation issues.

3. CSOs provide valuable oversight

Civil society groups helped transmit and interpret local grievances. This retained the community’s faith in the project and insured project-integrity.

4. Effective knowledge management can help proliferate the use of best practices

The CIF Stakeholder Day and Partnership Forum allow civil society stakeholders share their participation in projects and the effect this had on project outcomes. Joseph Kitilit stated that CIF pilot country meetings are a successful platform for sharing best practices.

5. Country context must be taken into account

Zhihong Zhang stated that the CIF is technology-neutral and willing to embrace the renewable technology suitable for that country. The CIF is a global partnership that follows the dictum, “think globally, act locally.”

Kenya is doing what it takes to make geothermal work for its people by first working with its people. We can only learn from its example. 

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