Kenya developed the third largest geothermal energy capacity in the world between 2016 and 2021, a new study shows.

The East African country grew its steam power by 0.2GW (equivalent to 200 MW) in the five-year period under review, only behind Turkey and Indonesia, according to the Renewables 2022 Global Status Report.

“During 2016-2021, the top 10 markets by reported capacity additions (new plant installations) were Turkey (0.9 GW added), Indonesia (0.7 GW), Kenya (0.2 GW) and the United States (0.2 GW), followed by Iceland, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Mexico (all less than 0.1 GW),” says the report.

Overall, Kenya is ranked seventh largest producer of geothermal electricity with a total geothermal capacity of 863MW it has developed over the years since 1981.

The United States holds the pole position with an installed capacity of slightly over 2,500MW, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, New Zealand in that order, while Mexico is sixth.

Kenya’s deepening of geothermal development along the Rift Valley has put it on track to joining the elite Gigawatt Club of countries with geothermal production of 1,000 MW (1 GW) and above. Only four nations, including the US, belong to this club.

Geothermal is an attractive low-cost renewable energy source with low emissions and serves as stable, reliable base-load electricity.

Presently, 83 percent of Kenya’s geothermal capacity is owned and operated by government-owned power producer KenGen. KenGen’s installed geothermal capacity currently stands at 713 MW, with the firm having more projects in the pipeline. The other share is held by American independent power producer Ormat Technologies through its local subsidiary OrPower 4, with an installed capacity of 150MW.

The Renewables 2022 Global Status Report indicates that in 2021, the world developed only 0.3GW (300MW) of geothermal power, lifting the existing global stock to 14.5 GW.

“New geothermal power generating capacity of 0.3 GW came online in 2021, bringing the global total to around 14.5 GW. This was more than double the additions in 2020 but below the five-year average of 0.5 GW since 2016.”

The report was prepared by REN21 – an international energy policy network made up of industry figures, scientists, and some governments.

Geothermal energy was first discovered and developed in Italy over 100 years ago at the beginning of the last century (20th century). It held the top spot until the second half of the 20th century when other countries took interest in the power source and overtook it.