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Kenya’s Geothermal Agency Picks New Boss

The board of Geothermal Development Company (GDC) has picked Jared Othieno as the new managing director.

Engineer Othieno takes over from the outgoing boss Johnson Ole Nchoe, who sat in the corner office for four years. Othieno, a former Kenya Power manager, beat 64 other contenders to the position.

 “On behalf of the Board and management of GDC, I wish to congratulate engineer Othieno on his appointment and wish him success in the new role,” GDC chairman John Njiraini said in a statement.

Created in 2008, government-owned GDC is mandated to drill exploration wells in search of steam on behalf of investors to derisk the venture before handing them over to power producers who pay for the steam that they convert to electricity.

Othieno started his career at utility firm Kenya Power where he served in various roles, eventually rising to the position of acting managing director, a seat he occupied for 15 months between July 2018 and October 2019.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Nairobi.

GDC currently earns the bulk of its revenues from geothermal steam sales in Olkaria, Naivasha to power producer KenGen who converts the steam to electricity.

The geothermal agency has so far developed 544MW of steam out of which 320MW has been added to the national grid by KenGen. It has other contracts in Menengai fields in Nakuru to sell steam to three independent power producers (IPPs) – Mauritian firm Quantum Power, American firm Ormat Technologies and Kenyan firm Sosian Energy – owned by steel and cement tycoon Narendra Raval. The three power plants will have a total installed capacity of 105MW, each 35MW upon construction. Groundwork is still being laid.

Steam power has helped quicken Kenya’s march towards renewables, with the country’s generation mix currently at 90 percent, nearly half from geothermal.

GDC boasts the largest steam well in Africa, Well 1A (30.6MW) in Menengai, Nakuru.

 The wonder well has in the past given the agency the bragging rights.

A standard well on average yields only 5MW, meaning GDC wonder well is equivalent to six wells. Drilling a single well costs an average $5 million (Sh500 million). Some wells turn out dry, returning losses to investors in terms of sunk costs.

GDC has seven operational rigs and also earns part of its revenues from consultancy and training services.

Read also: Global Green Energy Investments Hit $3 Trillion

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