Construction of Kenya’s first ever coal-powered plant has been halted following a court rule that said the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) failed to do a thorough environmental assessment after allegations that the plant would have dire economic and health effects on locals.
The construction of the plant, by Amu Power, a consortium comprising Kenya’s Gulf Energy and Centum Investment and a group of Chinese companies, after winning the government contract, was to commence in 2015 but has repeatedly been halted due to opposition by environmentalists. In 2018, a Kenyan court suspended the project, sending the dispute back to an environmental tribunal.
Lamu coal-fired power plant
The plant which is to be located near Lamu island, a famous ancient Swahili settlement and UNESCO World heritage site and a top tourist destination. Environmentalists say the plant will pollute the air, destroying mangroves and breeding grounds for five endangered species of marine turtles, fish and other marine life.
The US $2bn 1000MW coal fired plant, scheduled to enter commercial service in 2024, would cost consumers more than US $9bn and at the same time lead to excess generating capacity in Kenya hence sharply increasing electricity rates for consumers.
According to a report dubbed ‘The Proposed Lamu Coal Plant: The Wrong Choice for Kenya’, reveals that even if the plant never generates any power Kenya will still have to pay for it.
“The true costs of Lamu’s electricity during the years 2024 through 2037 could average as high as US $22 to US $75 cents per KWh — three to 10 times the company’s 2014 projection,” the study noted.
The study said the plant’s proponents had under priced coal imports and rising operational and maintenance costs However, the plant’s backers say it would help tackle Kenya’s frequent blackouts by increasing generation capacity by nearly a third and generating power that would cost about half what consumers currently pay. Amu Power says electricity from the plant will cost US $7.2 cents per KWh.