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France to Aid Kenya's Geothermal Firm

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The French government has agreed to give 7.2 billion shillings (US$97 million ) to Kenya's Geothermal Development Company (GDC) for the purchase of 2 rigs and capacity building for the new company.

A statement from the prime minister's office said on Wednesday that the French government has also agreed to increase funding for the Ol-Karia Geothermal Power project by 5.5 billion shillings (US$74 million) while pledging to help Kenya shift from reliance on fossil fuels to green energy.

The pledge for more funding for Ol Karia and support for green energy projects came after discussions between Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Director General of the French Agency for Development (AFD) Michel Severino in Paris late Tuesday.

The pledge was made pending approval by AFD board. Odinga, who is in France with other government officials, is pushing for French involvement in Kenya's drive to expand its energy generation by tapping into alternative sources of power.

At a meeting at the French agencies headquarters in Paris, the premier asked France to support Kenya's attempt to shift from reliance on hydrocarbons and fossil fuels.

"Odinga asked for more French support for Kenya's efforts to develop solar, wind and geothermal power. He asked France also to support the country's migration from rain fed agriculture to irrigated farming," the statement said.

Support for greater agricultural production, the prime minister said, also called for support of the country's environmental conservation efforts.

Responding to Odinga's requests, Severino praised Kenya's efforts to shift to green energy, saying recent research have indicated that the energy gap reduces the GDP of developing countries by about 1% every year.

He said nations relying solely on fossil fuels are taking a great risk, predicting that the cost of fossil energy will rise tremendously in the next two decades.

"We will work with you on green energy issues," Severino said. "People relying on fossil energy will find life very difficult in the coming years in terms of balance of payments and cost of energy. Green energy is the best investment a nation can make in the coming years. You can count on us on this," he added.

The AFD director general said his organization is "open" on matters of conservation in Kenya adding that France has watched Kenya's struggle to conserve its water towers with a lot of interest.

"My understanding is that the issue of conservation is a social and political one that is about the future sustainability of Kenya. We are open on this kind of program," he said.

The official asked the prime minister to take up the issue of cooperation for development of nuclear power with the French government directly.

The prime minister is in France largely to seek support for the initiatives to increase power generation in Kenya and environmental conservation.

He told the French officials that Kenya is suffering from severe energy deficiency and it is paralyzing the country's capacity to move forward.

He is scheduled to hold discussions later Wednesday with senior officials of the French government including Prime Minister Francois Fillon and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner. energy with the two senior officials.

(Xinhua News Agency October 21, 2009)

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