The African Union Commission (AUC) through the Department of Infrastructure and Energy and the German Geological Survey (BGR) on May 13th to 15th organized a three day workshop in Naivasha, Kenya, for high ranking decision-makers of regulatory agencies from Djibouti, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. The workshop included a field trip to on-going drilling operations of Kenya’s Geothermal Development Company (GDC) and the Kenya Electricity Generating Company Ltd (KenGen) at Menengai and Olkaria.
The objective was to introduce existing and highly successful regulatory schemes for geothermal drilling now in place in the United States and New Zealand, and to present perspectives on drilling regulation from drilling supervisors who are responsible for on-site activities related to testing, safety and private sector developers. Lecturers from New Zealand, Canada, and the United States familiarized African policy makers and regulatory officials with the need for geothermal drilling rules and regulations designed to protect health, life and the environment; what constitutes a comprehensive approach to the development, adoption and enforcement of geothermal drilling rules and regulations; and what can be learned from countries where geothermal drilling rules and regulations have a long history of enforcement. The workshop not only presented the information from the perspective of the enforcement agencies, but also illustrated the roles of both the geothermal developers and the actual drilling supervisors currently active in Eastern Africa in complying with rules and regulations to ensure safe working conditions and to provide adequate protection for ground and surface water resources and the environment in general.
Drilling rules and regulations generally also play yet another significant role and that is to ensure that data obtained from drilling and testing activities is fully captured by the appropriate government agency as part of their ongoing responsibility to fully obtain and catalogue all relevant resource information. Without comprehensive geothermal drilling rules and regulations in place, there is little assurance that this data will be obtained and made part of the national data base.
The Geothermal Risk Mitigation Facility (GRMF) of the African Union Commission (AUC) supports the development of geothermal resources surface studies and exploration drilling for geothermal developments in East Africa through grants. The GRMF is part of the Regional Geothermal Program (RGP) of the AUC, which includes 15 countries along the East African Rift System (EARS). The RGP is also active in the policy advisory sector and in capacity-building measures for members of energy and mining ministries of the EARS countries. Following recent discussions and evaluations, the AUC expects the GRMF will provide grants to projects in eight countries (Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda) within the next five to seven years. The GRMF has served as a catalyst for new private as well as public sector interest in the development of East Africa’s extensive geothermal resource base.