This week, there was a debate on the future of coal in Kenya and its place in the energy mix for the country. It took place at the Strathmore (University) Extractives Industry Centre (SEIC) Nairobi, and was co-hosted by WWF Kenya). The government plans to put up a coal plant on maInland Lamu and a private developer Amu Power was selected to build it, and is seeking approval from the energy regulatory commission to commence construction.
Coal around the world
- There are 3 new coal plants in Africa, and Japan & Korea will build 60 new ones to replace their old coal & nuclear ones.
- There are now more global jobs in solar than coal, and solar has gone from 1 GW production in 2003 to 70 GW this year.
- Trump got votes from Appalachian coal states where jobs were lost. But coal shares are down as gas has replaced coal.
- With or without Kenya, the world is going green – Ethiopia aims to get to 100% renewable., Germany gets 20% renewable (all in the last 8 years), US has gone from 2 to 7% renewable (in 10 years), South Africa gets 2 GW from solar, and Rwanda’s 8.5MW solar is the largest in the region.
- No projects happen at Lamu because NGOs on the beach want it to stay marginalized and oppose port, coal, roads etc.
- Lamu has high unemployment leaving youth exposed to Al-shabab & drugs. This project will have 1,800 jobs for locals.
- It is not the job of private company to create jobs or improve security in Lamu – that is the government’s role
- “Save Lamu” groups oppose the plant because all its side-effects have not been quantified, and it will destroy far more (fishing) jobs than it creates.
Other Sources and Energy Mix
- Amu Power’s 1050 MW will add 50% to Kenya’s 2,200 MW electricity from the coal plant that is 20 kilometers from Lamu town.
- A country’s rate of development depends on availability of cheaper and reliable energy supply. Developed countries get 60% from coal/nuclear and just 3% from renewables on average.
- Solar is okay for isolated homes, but it will not recover the cost of national power generation and distribution.
- Geothermal costs $4-5 million per well per well & each one generates 5MW – so how many can Kenya get? It’s very expensive for government & IPP’s who often sink many dry wells
- Geothermal depends on nature to generate the steam and you can’t tweak the inputs, unlike with coal & nuclear where you can vary the inputs to match demand.
- Industries need coal. Moyale which gets electricity from Ethiopia hydro only has supply three days a week
- Even today people on the grid will not turn on electric cookers – the main energy sources in Kenya are charcoal and wood, and they are larger pollutants than coal.
- Kenya imports all glass because we don’t have the energy to make glass.
- Coal is Kshs 7.5 per unit compared to kshs 20 from diesel-fired plants.
- The US has lake signs that “if you fish here, don’t eat the fish” – Kenya will likewise have to monitor coal pollution risks
- Kenya emissions (excluding extractives) will be 150 MT of carbon by 2030 and the government has committed to reduce this by 30%. How?
- How will the plant dispose of the ash, carbon dioxide and acid rain? Lamu does not have infrastructure
- An EIA (environmental impact assessment) audit process in Kenya is a compromised one. They are done by auditors hired by investors and will never oppose projects.
- Amu Power will use three new clean coal technologies at the plant.
- The government must check that industry and investors comply with environmental standards – there was a toxic battery factory in Mombasa. County and national governments need to do their own monitoring.
- Energy projects are financed by lenders have strict conditions.e .g IFC/World Bank finance many thermal plants, and they can’t allow plants that compromise the environment. The Amu power one is guaranteed by the African Development Bank.