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ECONOMY > Energy

Japan’s geothermal power generation increases in Africa

  • January 14, 2019
  • , Yomiuri , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

Japan’s electrical machinery manufacturing companies are now increasing their presence in Africa through geothermal power generation projects. Toshiba, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS), and Fuji Electric Co., Ltd., or the “Big Three” in the world, have accumulated their business results in Kenya and they are now aiming to extend their marketing efforts to other African countries. While there has been no marked increase in the number of orders for equipment used for thermal power generation that emits more greenhouse gases, geothermal power generation is becoming a promising growth field.


Kenya plans to increase its geothermal power generation from the output of about 600,000 kilowatts in 2015 to 5 million kilowatts by 2030. The country has supplied a lot of electricity by hydroelectric power generation so far, but its power output is decreasing due to water shortage caused by climate change and drought.


The Japanese companies are driving forces for Kenya’s growing geothermal power generation. Toshiba has received orders for geothermal power generation equipment capable of generating a total of 280,000 kilowatts, followed by MHPS (140,000 kilowatts) and Fuji Electric (70,000 kilowatts). According to the Japan Geothermal Association (JGA), the three companies hold a total market share of more than 60% in the world for geothermal turbines, the heart of geothermal power plants.


The business results that the Japanese companies have achieved in Kenya are helping them develop markets in other African countries. Toshiba has exchanged memorandums of understanding for cooperation in the development of geothermal power generation with local companies in five countries — Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, and Malawi. These five countries, like Kenya, are situated in eastern Africa. Many volcanos stretch in these countries, making the areas suitable for geothermal power generation.


In the power generation business worldwide, Chinese companies lead in solar and wind power generation with their low costs. On the other hand, Japanese companies have long accumulated technology at home for geothermal power generation. “Japan’s advantage is its capability of carrying out highly efficient power generation according to the local environment,” says chief secretary Toru Saito of the JGA.” That is how Japan maintains its high competitiveness.


Japan’s geothermal resources rank third in the world


Solar power and wind power are affected by climate and their output is subject to change. Meanwhile, terrestrial heat can stably produce power and provide it during the night, so its reliability as a power source is increasing. According to Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, the total output of geothermal power generation worldwide in 2020 is expected to be 20 million kilowatts, an increase of 170% over 2015.


Japan has the third largest amount of geothermal resources in the world, ranking after the U.S. and Indonesia. However, most of Japan’s resources suitable for power generation are located in national parks or hot spring resorts, making their development difficult. Affected by the geographical circumstances, the output of geothermal generation in Japan remains about 500,000 kilowatts for the last 20 years and the country’s electrical machinery manufacturers are seeking markets overseas.

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