Project C02, Energy Futures

Project Summary

Electricity generation, especially from renewables, constitutes a key feature in Kenya’s Vision 2030. In addition to national priorities, international climate policies and investors have supported the development of large-scale grid-based renewable energy infrastructures in Kenya, specifically geothermal and wind. The largest new projects are located in close vicinity to the envisaged development corridors in and along the Kenyan Rift Valley (KRV). This results in various interlinkages and mutual impacts of energy provision with other infrastruc-ture developments, thus not only accelerating land-use change and social-ecological trans-formation, but also shaping the socio-spatial development of these development corridors. Large-scale infrastructures are material manifestations of aspirations and at once technical fixes of possible future developments. With the background of our regional expertise in KRV, the proposed project will explore the multiple implications of large-scale rene¬wable energy (RE) projects, their political ecology and economy, their cross-scale linkages and governance as well as the associated practices of future-making.

Research Region:Kenya

Keywords: Human Geography, Social and Cultural Anthropology

Key Questions

What visions of the future are associated with large-scale RE projects, and by whom?

How does anticipation, planning, and implementation of large-scale RE projects create or reinforce conflicts over access to and the sharing of (potential) benefits?

What are the political and economic drivers and contexts at local, regional, national, and supranational levels, which have an impact on the planning and development of large-scale RE infrastructures?

In what ways do large-scale RE infrastructures in rural areas provide the context and conditions for wider land-use changes and other social-ecological transformations?

What socio-economic developments are associated with large-scale RE projects, and how do they impact on local livelihoods, public service improvements, and/or reinforce existing inequalities and exclusions?

What new actor constellations, governance and financing structures, and translocal and cross-scale linkages are associated with large-scale RE infrastructures?


Qualitative methods (especially expert interviews and ethnography) and survey analysis

Key Findings

Large-scale renewable energy infrastructures in Kenya are mainly driven by Kenya’s Vision 2030, an ambitious plan to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country (Bauriedl and Klagge, 2018, Müller-Mahn et al., 2019). While there are some large wind projects (most prominently the Lake Turkana Wind Park) and plans for a coal-powered plant, the bulk of new energy capacity comes from geothermal development (Greiner and Klagge, 2021, in print). Baringo-Silali is the largest exploration site to date and has moved from preparing ancillary infrastructures and engaging local communities to successful drilling. Geothermal future-making in Baringo-Silali is governed by linkages among various stakeholders ranging from international investors such as the KfW and national government actors, especially the Geothermal Development Cooperation (GDC), to county and community representatives (Klagge et al., 2020, Klagge and Nweke-Eze, 2020).

Geothermal development in northern Kenya takes place in a frontier situation characterized by devolution, new land laws and a weak presence of state security forces. This creates a breeding ground for (inter-ethnic) conflicts over access to land (Greiner, 2020, Greiner et al., 2021), but also conflictual community-investor relations. While the Government of Kenya, KfW, and GDC, as well as private investors have articulated long-term visions regarding sustainability, green energies and economic growth (Klagge, 2021, Nweke-Eze and Kioko, in print), members of affected communities in Baringo have much more concrete goals such as jobs and access to drinking water. Resulting investor-community as well as inter-ethnic conflicts are fuelled by “economies of anticipation”, i.e. expectations of future developments, compensations and benefits.


Bauriedl, S., Klagge, B. 2018. Stromerzeugung aus erneuerbaren Energien in Kenia. Praxis Geographie 48(3), 36-41.

Greiner, C. (forthcoming). African pastoralism: Plus ça change? From constant herders to social differentiation. In: Greiner, C. van Wolputte, S. & Bollig, M. (Eds) African Futures. Leiden: Brill Publishers (accepted).

Greiner, C. 2020. Negotiating Access to Land and Resources at the Geothermal Frontier in Baringo, Kenya. In: Lind, J., Okenwa, D. and Scoones, I. (Eds.) Land, Investment & Politics: Reconfiguring Africa’s Pastoral Drylands. Woodbridge: James Currey, 101-109.

Greiner, C. and Klagge, B. (in print). Elektrifizierung und Großprojekte der Stromerzeugung in Kenia. In: Becker, S., Klagge, B. and Naumann, M. (Eds.) Energiegeographie: Aktuelle Konzepte und Herausforderungen. Stuttgart: Ulmer.

Greiner, C., Greven, D. and Klagge, B. 2021. Roads to change: Livelihoods, land disputes, and anticipation of future developments in rural Kenya. European Journal of Development Research. DOI

Klagge, B. 2021. The Renewable Energy Revolution: Risk, Investor and Financing Structures – with Case Studies from Germany and Kenya. In: Knox-Hayes. J. and Wójcik, D. (Eds.) Routledge Handbook of Financial Geography. New York: Routledge, 620-645.

Klagge, B., Greiner, C., Greven, D., and Nweke-Eze, C. 2020. Cross-scale Linkages of Centralized Electricity Generation: Geothermal Development and Investor-community Relations in Kenya’s Semi-arid North. Politics and Governance, 8(3), 211-222. DOI

Klagge, B. and Nweke-Eze, C. 2020. Financing large-scale renewable-energy projects in Kenya: investor types, international connections, and financialization. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 102(1), 61-83. DOI

Klagge, B., and Zademach, H.-M. 2018. International Capital Flows, Stock Markets, and Uneven Development: The case of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative (SSEI). Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie / The German Journal for Economic Geography 62(2), 92-107. DOI.

Kuiper, G. & Greiner, C. (2021): Export horticulture and labour migration in Kenya: Translocality and transiency in a secondary town. Geoforum. DOI

Müller-Mahn, D., Dannenberg, P., Klagge, B. 2019. Das ländliche Afrika im Umbruch: Entwicklungskorridore und die Transformation des Agrarsektors. Geographische Rundschau 71(11), 10-16.

Nweke-Eze, C. 2021. Neoliberal Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa's Electricity Sector: Implementation, Experiences, and Impacts. In: Osabuohien, E.S., Oduntan, E.A., Gershon, O., Onanuga, O. and Ola-David, O. (Eds) Handbook of Research on Institution Development for Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth in Africa. Hershey: IGI Global, 410-430. DOI

Nweke-Eze, C. and Kioko, E.M. (in print). Investors’ sustainability tensions and strategic selectivity in the development of Kenya’s largest geothermal energy plants in Olkaria. In: Leal Filho, W., Pretorius, R. and de Sousa, L. (Eds.) Sustainable Development in Africa: Fostering Sustainability in one the World´s Most Promising Continents. World Sustainability Series. Heidelberg: Springer.

Outlook for phase II (2022 - 2025)

In the coming phase of the CRC, project C02 will continue and broaden its research on energy futures and the Kenyan energy transition. This transition has become very dynamic in recent years with the expansion of power generation, a shift from hydro and diesel to geothermal energy, and great progress in electrification. As a result, Kenya has become a pioneer in geothermal development and model for other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the second phase, we will study the underlying knowledge production for geothermal development in Kenya and the associated institutional changes and policy mobilities as a field of future-making. Furthermore, we will explore the role of geothermal energy in national and international energy strategies, how geothermal energy competes with conventional and other renewables, how it is embedded in centralized and decentralized electrification strategies, and how and by whom geothermal futures are produced, supported and implemented. These perspectives and questions directly result from our findings on the Baringo-Silali geothermal project in the first phase and will expand our geographical focus to other geothermal sites in Kenya and their national as well as international linkages.

Partner Institutions