A plan to dramatically increase the levels of electricity generated from “hot rocks” in Eastern Africa has been drawn up at a key conference held at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).Nairobi, Kenya – April 15, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] This geothermal project would harness steam produced by hot rocks deep in the earth to generate electricity. But until now its potential in the Eastern African Rift Valley region has remained largely untapped. Government energy experts, scientists, engineers and members of the private sector, have set a “challenging yet achievable target” to develop 1,000 MW of geothermal across Eastern Africa by 2020, equivalent to the electricity needs of several million people in the region. In total, Africa has a potential of up to 7,000 MW of untapped geothermal energy resources. Currently Kenya, which has pioneered geothermal energy in the region, generates 45 MW of electricity from this system. UNEP delegates, in a final declaration, called geothermal power “very reliable,” citing Kenya’s use of geothermal energy for power generation for 22 years at greater than 97 percent availability. The experts emphasized that geothermal energy was clean and, unlike hydropower, was not vulnerable to droughts. It also is not prone to unpredictable price fluctuations as can be the case with oil-fired power generation. The meeting, called the Eastern African Geothermal Energy Week, has been aimed at overcoming some of the technological and financial hurdles that have held back geothermal development. Delegates from countries including the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, pledged to share expertise, bundle together national geothermal initiatives to reduce development costs, promote public/private partnerships to accelerate geothermal development in the region and lobby donor governments and agencies for increased geothermal financing.