CRC TRR 228 Project C02

Energy Futures

Infrastructures and governance for renewable energies

C02 Energy Futures


Overall, the project will broaden the so-far still scarce academic knowledge on infrastructures and governance for renewable, especially geothermal, ­energy in the ­Global South.

Project Summary

This project explores visions, epistemic mobilities and strategic planning practices related to Kenya’s energy policy by focusing on the development and governance of geothermal infrastructures. The Kenyan energy sector has developed very dynamically in recent years with a shift from hydro and diesel to geothermal and wind energy, and great progress in electrification, thereby making Kenya a renewable energy pioneer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Based on the findings of the first project phase, we assume that relevant impulses and policies of future-making originate in transnational institutional contexts and knowledge communities. Important actors include government representatives, policy specialists, technology experts, and consultants of various geographical and institutional backgrounds who interact and cooperate in framing and envisioning geothermal development in Kenya and elsewhere. The project explores the linkages between technologies, institutions, and these actors, the governance and dynamics of Kenya’s energy sector, and its embeddedness in the wider East African Region. We focus on the transnationally operating communities of practice and explore their knowledge resources and practices, on the geothermal visions and plans produced by them, and on how institutional contexts at various scales encourage and facilitate – or interfere with – these visions, plans, and resulting policies and implementation. Conceptually, the project focuses on the geographies and temporalities involved in future making, strategic (energy) planning, and the cross-scale dynamics in technology and policy development and transfer. Furthermore, the project not only explores how geothermal futures and infrastructures are envisioned, planned, and implemented, but also how geothermal development and infrastructures contribute to socioecological transformations and land-use changes in the Kenyan Rift Valley.

Research Regions: Kenya, Namibia

What dynamics of future-making are associated with the planning and implementation of large-scale renewable energy projects in previously marginalized dryland areas? Focusing on visions, epistemic mobilities and strategic planning practices related to geothermal development and Kenya’s energy policy, this project explores the risks and opportunities, land-use changes and governance of infrastructures at the interface of global and local dynamics.

  • What visions of the future are associated with geothermal development and its direct-use applications? With what rationales and time horizons?


  • How do institutional contexts at various scales encourage and facilitate – or interfere with – such visions and the resulting policies? Which actors are involved as drivers and/or knowledge providers?


  • What are the ideas and approaches to finance and implement geothermal visions and infrastructures?
  • What (international) networks, power relations, epistemologies, and socioeconomic conditions constitute the community of practice of (Kenyan) geothermal experts, and in what ways do they drive the development of “geothermal futures” in Kenya?


  • How and by whom are direct-use applications and the related infrastructures planned, implemented, and financed? Where does the knowledge applied in these processes originate, and by whom and how was it produced and transferred to the Kenyan Rift Valley?


  • What are the anticipated and observed impacts of geothermal development, its direct-use applications and associated rural electrification on local livelihoods, land-use changes, and social-ecological transformation?


  • How does anticipation, planning, and implementation of geothermal development, its direct-use applications and associated rural electrification create or reinforce conflicts over land and over potential benefits?
  • Qualitative methods (especially expert interviews and ethnography)
  • Survey analysis

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.

By focusing on the different visions of the future associated with large-scale infrastructures, this project will contribute to our understanding of cross-scalar linkages and drivers in land-use change and social-ecological transformations.


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

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. 2022. 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, 36-46. Link

Greiner, C., Bollig, M. 2023. Fetishizing the Wild: Conservation, Commodities, and Capitalism. In: Bollig, M., et al. (eds.) Commodifying the ‘Wild’: Conservation, Markets and the Environment in Southern and Eastern Africa. Woodbridge: James Currey, 31-55.

Greiner, C., Klagge, B. 2021. Elektrifizierung und Großprojekte der Stromerzeugung in Kenia. In: Becker, S., Klagge, B. and Naumann, M. (Eds.) Energiegeographie: Aktuelle Konzepte und Herausforderungen. Stuttgart: Ulmer, 289-302. Link

Greiner, C., Vehrs, H.P., Bollig, M. 2021. ‘Land-use and Land-cover Changes in Pastoral Drylands: Long-term Dynamics, Economic Change, and Shifting Socioecological Frontiers in Baringo, Kenya’, Human Ecology. DOI

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

Greiner, C., Klagge, B., Grawert, E., Mkutu, K. 2022. ‘Future-making and scalar politics in a resource frontier: Energy projects in northern Kenya‘, PLAAS Working Papers, No. 63. Full Text

Greiner, C., Klagge, G., Owino, E. 2023. The political ecology of geothermal development: Green sacrifice zones or energy landscapes of value?, Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 99, 2023. Full Text.

Greven, D. 2023. Bursting pipes and broken dreams: on ruination and reappropriation of large-scale water infrastructure in Baringo County, Kenya, Journal of Eastern African StudiesFull Text

Klagge, B. 2022. Geothermie-Großprojekte im ländlich-peripheren Kenia: Chancen und Herausforderungen zwischen Stromerzeugung für den nationalen Markt und regionaler Entwicklung durch direct use. Standort. 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. Link

Klagge, B., 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., 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

Klagge, B., Greiner, C., Greven, D., 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

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

Lawhon, M., Follmann, A., Braun, B., Cornea, N., Greiner, C., Guma, P., Karpouzoglou, T., Revilla Diez, J., Schindler, S., Schramm, S., Sielker, F., Tups, G., Vij, S., Dannenberg, P.2023. Making Heterogeneous Infrastructure Futures in and Beyond the Global South, Futures, 2023,103270, 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. Link

Ndi, F. 2024. Land acquisition, renewable energy development, and livelihood transformation in rural Kenya: The case of the Kipeto wind energy project, Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 112, 2024, DOI
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., Kioko, E.M. 2021. ‘But we cannot do it all’: Investors’ sustainability tensions and strategic selectivity in the development of Geothermal Energy in Kenya. In: Leal Filho, W., Pretorius, R. and de Sousa, L. (Eds.) Sustainable Development in Africa, World Sustainability Series. Cham: Springer. Link

Van Wolputte, S., Greiner, C., Bollig, M. (Eds.) 2022. African Futures. Leiden: Brill Publishers. DOI

Van Wolputte, S., Greiner, C., Bollig, M. 2022. Futuring Africa: An Introduction. In: Van Wolputte, S., Greiner, C., Bollig, M. (eds.) African Futures. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1-16.

Volkert, M., Klagge, B. 2022. Electrification and Devolution in Kenya: Opportunities and challenges. Energy for Sustainable Development 71, 541-553.

Project News

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Future Rural Africa Researchers Eric Kioko and Clemens Greiner named Principal Investigators in Newly Established Research Consortium “Commodifying the Wild”

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Uroš Kovač (Future Rural Africa Project B04 Projecting Futures) and Anna Lisa Ramella (Future Rural Africa Project C06 Testing Futures) edited a special issue of ...
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Publication: Bursting Pipes and Broken Dreams – On Ruination and Reappropriation of Large-Scale Water Infrastructure in Baringo County, Kenya

By David Greven, Project C02 “Energy Futures” Abstract In the course of Kenya’s Vision 2030 development plan, the Kenyan Northern Rift Valley recently became the ...
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As ECAS 2023 is set to begin in Cologne on May 31, we are not only thrilled to announce that the CRC Future Rural Africa ...
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Public Panel Discussion at ECAS 2023: African Energy Futures – Navigating sustainability, electrification and export opportunities

TUE I May 30, 2023 I 18:00 – 20:00 (CEST) The CRC Future Rural Africa invites you to this public panel discussion, part of the ...
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Publication: Electrification and Devolution in Kenya – Opportunities and Challenges

Abstract While there is a broad literature on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (SDG7), the positive impact of electrification ...
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[DE] “Future Rural Africa” im Kölner Unimagazin: Wie Geothermie-Projekte ländliche Gegenden verändern

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Energy infrastructure in rural Kenya.

Future-making and scalar politics in a resource frontier: Energy projects in northern Kenya

Abstract This contribution explores conflicts in the context of energy-related investments and infrastructure projects in Kenya’s arid and semiarid north. Over the past decade or ...
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Virtual Booklaunch “African Futures” 22.04.2022

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Publication: Livelihoods, land disputes, and anticipation in rural Kenya

This article examines how rural roads relate to differences in livelihood patterns, attitudes toward social change, and land disputes in Baringo, Kenya. Although their direct ...
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Cross-scale linkages in geothermal future-making

Geothermal development in Kenya not only contributes to electrification in Kenya, but also has the potential to significantly change livelihoods and future development in the ...
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Publication: Land investment and politics

Can large scale investments into pastoral drylands of East Africa change the development narrative of pastoral communities who are often marginalised from centralized interventions and ...
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Geothermal development and investor–community relations

Abstract Based on a study of Kenya’s geothermal-energy development in Baringo-Silali, this publication explores how and with whom government actors and local communities in rural ...
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Team Members

Clemens Greiner

Dr. Clemens Greiner

Principal Investigator

University of Cologne

Z01 Klagge Britta

Prof. Dr. Britta Klagge

Principal Investigator

University of Bonn

Prof. Kennedy Mkutu B03 Violent Futures

Prof. Dr. Kennedy Mkutu


United States International University - Africa

C02 Ndi Frankline

Dr. Frankline Ndi

Postdoctoral Researcher

University of Bonn

Future Rural Africa Logo transparent

Dr. Helen Hoka Osiolo


Strathmore University

Future Rural Africa Logo transparent

Prof. Dr. Samuel Owuor


University of Nairobi

C02 Wummel Julia

Julia Wummel

PhD Student

University of Cologne

Associated Team Members

portrait image of David Greven of Project Z01

David Greven

PhD Student

University of Cologne

crc logo transparent

Chigozie Nweke-Eze

PhD Student

University of Bonn

Portrait of Bendedikt Walker

Benedikt Walker

PhD Student

University of Bonn

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