US commits $233m to Kenya’s 100MW wind power project

Kenya’s plan to have 2,036 megawatts (MW) of wind power by 2030 has gotten a boost as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the U.S. Government’s development finance institution, weekend, committed $233 million in debt financing to support construction and operation of the Kipeto Wind Power Project in Kajiado, 80 kilometres south of Nairobi. The funding comes as part of President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative.

The Kipeto project is being developed in partnership with African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM), one of Power Africa’s 100 private sector partners and fund advisor to African Infrastructure Investment Fund 2, Kenyan independent power producer Craftskills Wind Energy International Ltd., and the International Finance Corporation.

“Kipeto is a transformative project for many reasons, principally for the clean and reliable energy it will supply to Kenyan citizens,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, President and CEO of OPIC, who signed a commitment letter of the corporation’s support alongside Jurie Swart, CEO of African Infrastructure Investment Managers. “It will be one of Kenya’s first utility-scale wind projects and can contribute more than 20 percent of residential power consumption at current usage rates.”

Littlefield, who was in Kenya with President Obama as part of the U.S. delegation to the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), stressed that OPIC’s commitment to Kipeto was a significant step in its pledge to the Power Africa Initiative, which seeks to add more than 30,000 megawatts of sustainable electricity generation capacity in order to increase power access across sub-Saharan Africa.

When completed, the 100-megawatt wind power facility will be one of the first utility-scale wind projects to come online in Kenya. Already, the East African nation has the Ngong and the Isiolo wind power plants commissioned in 2013, both producing less than 200MW of power. Work is also ongoing on the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, poised to provide 300 MW by 2016.

Kenya has over the years shown great commitment to developing its renewable energy capabilities. While developing its wind energy potential, the country also has developments in geothermal, nuclear and solar energy, among others. On Saturday at the just concluded GES, Kenya agreed a $2.2 billion deal to develop a 1,000 megawatt solar power project over the next five years.

In keeping with its pledge to cut carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030, Kenya is ramping up its renewable energy production. Apart from the environmental implication of this, East Africa’s largest economy will be extending power to over 75 percent of its population that still lack access to reliable electricity. Cleaner and more reliable energy will also help to further bolster the country’s growing economy.

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec says the new funding for the Kipeto project “reflects the United States’ ongoing commitment to scale up access to electricity and mobilize investment in Kenya”.

GE Africa which has more than $2.5 billion in booked orders on the continent across transport, aviation, healthcare and energy sectors, is a partner on the project, and will be the sole equipment supplier.

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