By Nano Mothibi
Sandton – As world leaders gather to find practical renewable energy
solutions for millions who desperately need energy, international businesses
across the road at the nearby Hilton Hotel have acknowledged the echoes of good
old simple ideas.
One of these has been the exploitation of geothermal energy as the
sustainable solution to Africa’s energy poverty.
“Significant geothermal resources suitable for power generation have been
identified in east Africa, particularly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda where the
Rift Valley is situated. There are also reports of the ancient undocumented use
of geothermally produced heating systems in Algeria, Ethiopia, Egypt and
Tunisia,” says David Citrin, the vice-president of Ormat Corporation, which
has begun a private geothermal power project in Kenya.
Geothermal energy is the heat found in the interior of the Earth along the
earth’s tectonic plates and volcanic zones, with over 60 countries having
potential resources. It is a renewable energy source that can significantly
contribute to the reduction of emission of greenhouse gases during the next
“Through geothermal energy, environmental emissions can be reduced by 70
percent compared with fuel energy. Geothermal systems are twice more efficient
than oil-generated means of energy. They can be used for various functions such
as heating, cooling, dehumidification and can be installed in many both private
and public settings,” says Citrin.
Besides electricity generation, geothermal energy is applied worldwide for
direct use of agricultural and space heating, this can make a further
contribution to sustainable and environmentally benign primary energy
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the chairperson of Business Action on Sustainable
Development, said: “Very often in rural areas, renewable energy is already the
most economic means of supply.” Every energy source has benefited from
assistance in its start-up phase, and renewable energy should be no exception.
Theoretically, this sort of energy would be enough to cover the energy demand
of the world population in the coming 100 000 years and could provide clean
sustainable power to serve the electricity needs of over 600 million people,
mainly in developing countries.
By 2010, renewable energy could serve an additional 800 million people in
“To bring renewable energy to millions of rural families in the developing
world is a massive task. It will require thousands of small businesses capable
of installing and maintaining systems. This could also be a major source of
employment and business creation,” says Moody-Stuart.
Several electric utilities in the US have introduced financial incentive
schemes by encouraging house owners to use groundwater heat pumps for space
cooling/heating purposes, the same type of development might be considered in
Europe in the near future.
In Europe including France, Germany, Greece, Israel and Russia, geothermal
springs are used for bathing, washing and cooking for thousands of years. There
are ruins of baths dating from the Roman Empire at numerous localities in
Europe. Health spas have been operated for most of this century at numerous hot
spring localities in Europe, in particular in Central and Eastern Europe. --
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