Africa has attracted the support of Iceland’s government agencies and private company investors to develop their geothermal sector which can provide energy and electricity to sub-Saharan countries and thus increase their potential for economic growth. Geographically, the most promising sites for geothermal energy development are in the Greater Rift Valley of eastern Africa.

In early 2013, Rwanda launched a geothermal project on the slopes of Mt. Karisimbi. Source: Rwanda Mnistry of Infrastructure / Flickr.

In early 2013, Rwanda launched a geothermal project on the slopes of Mt. Karisimbi. Source: Rwanda Ministry of Infrastructure / Flickr.

The Bugurama/Ruzizi region located between Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is being surveyed for a regional geothermal exploration project. The Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) intend to support geothermal exploration and capacity building in East Africa. They have been working toward this goal since the first half of 2013 in cooperation with Iceland Geosurvey (ISOR), the European Union Delegation in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Energy Authority (EGL).

Another East African country currently involved in the ICEIDA/NDF Geothermal Exploration Project is Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government’s strategy regarding renewables envisages developing geothermal in tandem with hydro in order to strengthen energy security and ensure a sustainable supply. Geothermal, the only base load renewable energy resource in the country, will be in the forefront. ICEIDA signed a Partnership Agreement with the government of Addis Ababa in September 2013 for geothermal surface exploration and capacity building for geothermal development. The Ethiopian exploration agencies are the Geological Survey of Ethiopia (GSE) and the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO).

This cooperation will assist the Ethiopian government to increase its renewable energy through low emission geothermal energy development thus benefiting the country economically and socially. The project must identify potential sites for exploration drilling in the target areas and determine the respective geothermal capacity. Geothermal surface exploration activities will concentrate on Tendaho Alalobeda and Aluto Langano, two areas considered to have high energy production potential. A capacity building project for geothermal exploration will be initiated in the area of Gedemsa; operations and maintenance of geothermal power plants will also be included in the project.

If the collaboration between Iceland and countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia is successful, it would represent a positive example for green development in Africa. Previously, many countries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia have relied primarily on fossil fuels while presently they are trying to move toward more efficient alternative renewable sources. It will be impressive if African renewable energies play a prominent role in contributing to geothermal energy use.


Writer: Edoardo De Silva is energy assistant at Revolve.