GEOTHERMAL ENERGY could meet the electricity needs of millions of people in eastern Africa, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
At a UNEP conference in Nairobi, energy experts, engineers, scientists and members of the private sector 'set a challenging yet achievable target' to develop 1,000MW of geothermal generated electricity across eastern Africa by 2020.
According to UNEP, Africa has up to 7,000MW of untapped geothermal resources.
Geothermal energy, in which steam produced by hot rocks deep in the Earth is used to generate electricity, is a highly promising form of renewable energy, it says.
'But until now its potential in the Eastern African Rift Valley region has remained largely untapped.'
Geothermal energy is clean, it adds, and, unlike hydro-electricity, it is not vulnerable to droughts. Nor is it prone to unpredictable price fluctuations.
Kenya, which pioneered geothermal energy in the region, generates 45MW of geothermal electricity a year.
The aim of the conference was to overcome some of the technological and financial hurdles that have held back geothermal development.
It was attended by representatives from the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
Delegates pledged to share expertise and initiatives to reduce development costs and to promote public/private partnerships to accelerate geothermal development in the region.