The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) has raised environmental concerns over Kenya’s plan to include a 5,000MW coal-fired power plant in its future energy mix.
During a recent workshop organised by Kenya’s Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA), Unep officials took a swipe at the coal plan.
“There is a proposed 5,000MW Coal Power Plant in Kilifi and yet the government is equally working on a 30 percent emission reduction by 2030,” Unep officials pointed out during the workshop centred on electric mobility policies.
In June last year, the National Environment Tribunal (NET) stopped construction of Kenya’s first coal plant – 1,050MW Lamu plant – over environmental concerns about the $2 billion (Sh200 billion) project. Construction was originally planned to start in 2015.
In response to the reservations expressed by the global environmental agency against the Kilifi coal plant, Kenyan officials said: “Emissions from the proposed coal power plant were already factored into the government’s plan to have a 30 percent emissions reduction by 2030.”
“According to vision 2030, for Kenya to be a middle income industrialized nation, there was a need for 20,000 megawatts. This was revised downward to 17,000 megawatts in order to de-carbonize the vision. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry is working with the Ministry of Energy to derive the least cost power for development planning,” they added.
Currently, Kenya’s energy generation mix is over 90 percent green, comprising geothermal, hydropower, wind and solar alongside thermal power with the total installed capacity standing at 2,700MW.
But Kenya still sees the need to further diversify the mix to support its industrialisation ambitions, with coal and nuclear taking a central place in the drive.
Kenya has in the past also indicated interest to build another 960MW coal-fired power plant in Kitui where coal deposits have been discovered.
The mining contract for a section of the Mui coal block had been awarded to Chinese firm Fenxi Mining but work is yet to take off. Location of the proposed plant near the mining fields is expected to cut transport costs.
In 2018, a court suspended the Lamu coal plant for a second time, sending the dispute back to the environmental tribunal following a petition from Save Lamu Natural Justice. Then the tribunal last year cancelled the environmental impact assessment (EIA) licence that the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) had issued to Amu Power Company Ltd – the developers.
The activists reckon that emissions from the plant would pollute Lamu’s pristine air, 21 kilometres from plant, and pose health hazards on an island that is a Unesco World Heritage site and a top tourist destination.