Message by Amina Mohamed, UNEP Deputy Executive Director, at the Opening of the 4th African Rift Geothermal Conference delivered on behalf of the Executive Director Wed, Nov 21, 2012

Your Excellency Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Vice President of the Republic of Kenya,

Hon. Kiraitu Murungi, Minister for Energy, Republic of Kenya

Mr Patrick Nyoike, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy, Republic of Kenya,

Mr Philippe Niyongabo, Head of Energy Division, Africa Union Commission

Prof. Roland Horne, President, International Geothermal Association

Dr. Silas Simiyu, Chair, Geothermal Association of Kenya

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is pleased to welcome you to the Fourth African Rift Geothermal Conference (ARGeo-C4) focusing on “Geothermal: Solution to Africa Energy needs”.   

The biennial international conference is organized to further strengthen regional cooperation in the development and utilization of geothermal resources. The first three conferences were held in Ethiopia, Uganda and Djibouti. We are pleased to organize this conference as one of the main activities under the African Rift Geothermal Development (ARGeo) project. ARGeo-C4 provides the platform for accelerating and scaling-up geothermal development in this Region and contributing to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Energy 4 ALL initiative launched in 2012 by Secretary General

Distinguished delegates

Energy use is under-developed in Africa. The statistics reveal a worrying scenario, Africa has 13 % of the global population, its share in global electricity consumption is less than 3% and only 25% of Africans have access to electricity. Most Africans in fact 70% of them are dependent on traditional biomass fuels. This clearly reflects not only a very low level of energy utilization in economic production, but also, the resultant and widespread deforestation, erosion and the loss of fertile agricultural lands and an abject neglect of human wellbeing. Furthermore, given the critical role of energy as a key input to virtually all economic activities, the often high and frequent unpredictable costs of fossil fuels significantly undermine the economic competitiveness of the region.

Our gathering here today confirms the contrary; the continent has an abundance of untapped renewable energy resources that include: hydropower, wind, geothermal, solar, and bio-fuels.  With a geothermal potential of over 15,000 MW of electricity, the East Africa Rift System is one of the most highly endowed regions of the earth, yet, the least connected with electricity. Geothermal is ‘indigenous’, it is  reliable  and can and should be a key ally in realizing a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy—a transition that was endorsed as an important pathway to achieving sustainable development at the recent Rio+20 Summit and a pathway that many countries in the region have embarked upon.

In the East Africa Region, Geothermal Development has been constrained by the risks associated with resource exploration and development as well as financial risks that are associated with investment in power development projects. Lack of appropriate investment and institutional infrastructure in many countries has also contributed to the slow pace of interest. The adoption of a comprehensive regional strategy for geothermal development is one way of reducing such risks and accelerating the uptake of geothermal.

This is the basis for UNEP-African Rift Geothermal Development Project (ARGeO) which is financed by the Global Environment Facility, developed with the view to promote geothermal resource utilization, by building capacities, reducing the various risks involved, attracting investors and lowering the cost of geothermal power development. The UNEP-ARGeo Project, which covers six East African Countries: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, is of great importance to the Africa region and to its economic development.

I believe that this conference provides a useful platform to deliberate and address some of these key challenges and strengthen the foundation for enhanced development of geothermal energy as one of the building blocks for the transition to a sustainable energy mix in the region.

I am happy to note that the implementation of the ARGeo Projec will be carried out in partnership with the Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility (GRMF) of the African Union Commission (AUC) and that the development of the project has enjoyed the support of the German Federal Institute of Geosciences and Natural resources (BGR), Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA), United Nations University (UNU)-Geothermal Training Programme (GTP), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

   

In closing allow me to extend UNEP’s appreciation to the Government of Kenya for co-organizing this important conference with us. I would also like to acknowledge other partners who have made this conference possible.   

I thank you

 
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