Plans to build a coal-fired power plant in the Kenyan Indian Ocean archipelago of Lamu have hit another setback with General Electric (GE) announcing its intention to exit an agreement to design, construct and maintain the plant because the American multinational is ending its involvement in the coal power market as it shifts to renewable energy.
Implementation of the project became doubtful in June 2019 when a Kenyan court ordered the cancellation of a licence issued to the implementer, Amu Power, after the tribunal found that the permit granted by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) was issued without due regard to all provisions of the laws governing the execution of such enterprises.
A critical review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for the coal plant had revealed major inadequacies that range from inaccurate definition of the project scope, insufficient analysis of environmental impacts, incomplete technological options analysis and inadequate mitigation measures.
The proposed coal-fired power plant was expected to cost $2 billion in Kwasasi, an area that the proponents consider ‘remote’. It was intended to produce 1,050 Megawatt of coal-fired thermal electricity to contribute to the government’s blueprint for 5,000MW of affordable and reliable power on the national grid.
Environment protection groups, however, noted that Kwasasi is home to indigenous people, a fragile ecosystem for mangroves, fish, coral and other marine life. The coal plant has the potential to destroy more than just the aquatic life. It could also harm people’s health by contaminating both the air and water. It also posed a threat to Lamu as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the limestone and coral centuries-old architecture of the oldest settlement on the East African coast that has been continuously inhabited since the 13th century.
“Kenya’s pursuit of its ambitious carbon reduction goals through clean energy cannot be derailed by a coal-powered plant that is harmful to people’s health and is environmentally destructive,” said Nancy Ogonje, Executive Director, East African Wild Life Society.
“We urge Amu Power and other investors in the Lamu coal power plant to renew their commitment to environmental health and deliver clean energy solutions for consumers to create long-term, sustainable value for all stakeholders,” she added.