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The Impact of Large Renewable Energy Development on the Poor: Environmental and Socio-Economic Impact of a Geothermal Power Plant on a Poor Rural Community In Kenya

Nicholas O Mariita

Kenya Electricity Generating Company Ltd, Olkaria Geothermal Project, P.O Box 785,


Abstract

The article assesses the local environmental and socio-economic impact of geothermal power plant on poor rural community in Kenya. The country’s geothermal resources are located in the Rift Valley region - an environmentally and culturally fragile part of the country. Kenya’s main geothermal plants are located in the middle of one of Rift Valley’s major wildlife parks – a major tourist attraction. Over the last two decades, the surrounding area has also become a major centre for Kenya’s flourishing commercial flower farming, which is now partially powered by geothermal energy. This article examines environmental and socio-economic impacts on the nomadic low-income rural Maasai community of the simultaneous development of geothermal energy, flower farming and wildlife/tourism industry. While the near-term environmental impacts have been minimal, the article warns of significant adverse impacts in the future if the competing demands of the fast growing geothermal energy, flower farming as well as wildlife/tourism sector are not adequately addressed. In the short-term, however, the socio-economic impact of geothermal energy development is likely to be the main source of conflict. The article ends by proposing policy and institutional measures that would ensure that the local Maasai community enjoys a wider range of socio-economic benefits as well as mitigate long-term adverse environmental impacts associated with geothermal energy development.


Keywords: Poor, Geothermal, Kenya

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