Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’ve had some memorable visits here. I still remember one of them, nearly three years ago now. We were here, at the commissioning of Ol Karia IV. A young lady stood up; she wanted to know if we could connect her, and her family, to power, because even though she lived near here,she had never yet, in all these years, been able to switch on a light in her home. We were able to connect her, and her neighbours — more than 400 households in total — in October 2014.
Her story stayed with me because it reminded me of the power of energy to change lives. Some government programs take years – decades even – to change the life of an ordinary family. Energy is different: it changes lives, right here, right now. One day your kids are studying under a koroboi; the next, they’re learning under electric light. One day, you’re rushing to get your milk to the dairy; the next,you can cool it at home. One day, your kinyozi is using manual clippers; the next, he’s cutting your hair with electric ones. Changes that matter.
What is good for your home and your business is good for the country. If your children are studying longer, and doing better in school, this country’s future is assured. If your costs fall, your business grows, creating jobs for more of our young people.
Frankly, Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s the promise of transformation: ours is to supply cheap, reliable energy to your homes and businesses, so that you can build prosperity for yourselves, and for your families.
We need to be perfectly clear about this, just so that there is no misunderstanding: without cheap, reliable energy,our development plans will remain just that — plans, on a piece of paper, gathering dust in an office.
Now, my Administration is clear. We know where we need to go; we know which path to take.
First, take a step back. Kenya is blessed with a bounty of green, renewable energy. In the past, we’ve done little to develop these riches. Well, dirty energy has proved as damaging as it is expensive: it eats up our resources, and it leaves our children sick by the roadside. Kenya can no longer afford it.
That’s not the only thing we can’t afford. These days,our lenders ask for payment guarantees — stiff ones. Few of us can afford these guarantees.
That means foreign energy interests have a head start over Kenyans, because, often, their capital is cheaper. In any case, to require stiff guarantees is to slow down the investment we need; and to delay the transformation we seek.
I know that you worry about water levels too. On top of all the other difficulties, we know that our power supply is too often at the mercy of the rains. If they fail, that means expensive, unpredictable power, not just for your business,but for your home too. That needs to change. It will change.
To turn to indigenous sources of green energy is to begin to answer these challenges. No source of green energy is more promising than geothermal. We’re already in the top ten producers on earth. Our reserves are some of the largest in the world, so we can certainly put up more plants. That this form of energy is not subject to the vagaries of the weather, and that it runs at a respectable rate more than 90% of the time every year, means that we can bring reliable power to every Kenyan home. To be direct:geothermal energy means cheaper, greener, more reliable power for your business and your home.
That is why, Ladies and Gentlemen, our gathering today is of such moment. We meet to commission 75 MWof power from 14 wellhead units. These units are a unique innovation success story: once, we had to wait between five and seven years from the drilling of the first well to the installation of a geothermal plant; now, we’ve cut that period to between two and three years.
Let me commend KenGen for their boldness in taking the calculated risk which saw them install the first 5 MWpilot unit in 2009 — a unit which has performed exceptionally well ever since. Today, we celebrate the completion of the last of 14 units; the end of a process that has seen the Company invest millions of dollars in the drilling of the steam wells, and the installation of these highly innovative units. This technology has sharply cut the cost of investment in drilling.
It’s clear to me, by the way, that our institutions should adopt the same innovative approach in facing our challenges: innovation must be the new identity of Kenyan institutions if we are going to see the transformation Kenyans demand.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The wells, of course, will soon be joined by a new 158 MW Olkaria V power project. Today, we break ground on that project too. Once again, the vision is clear: we need cheap, green and reliable energy.
Once again, the path is clear: we expect that the peak load will grow to about 15,000 MW by 2030; that demand will be met by raising installed capacity gradually to 19,200MW by 2030. This new plant will play its part in meeting that new demand.
The project was made possible by the generosity of the Government of Japan. In this, it is no different from many earlier investments in geothermal power, many of which have benefited significantly from the expertise, the funding, the experience, and the goodwill of our partners in Japan.
I am deeply grateful for that long partnership, and I trust that Olkaria V, our latest venture, will be as successful as our efforts in the past.
Kenyan banks that supported the installation of the wellheads we launched today also deserve honourable mention for the confidence and generosity.
I thank all involved for their faith, and invite them to continue supporting homegrown innovation: quite simply, it’s the right thing to do.
Last, but most certainly not least, let me thank China: their Exim Bank gave liberally, and their Great Wall Drilling Company did exceptional work.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These projects join the public and the private sector here at home; and they join our efforts with those of friends abroad. We are united in one, and only one, aim: to transform the lives of ordinary Kenyans right here in this county, and across the Republic.
In commissioning these wells, and in breaking ground for the new project, we take a mighty step on the road to prosperity for this nation.
So join me in celebration, Ladies and Gentlemen, as I commission these wells. It is my pleasure to declare them commissioned.
God bless you All. God bless Kenya