FOSSIL FUEL

UK ends coal power funding, Kenya still keen on Sh200bn coal plant

"Not another penny of UK tax payers money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity," Johnson

In Summary

•UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it made no sense for Britain to cut its carbon emissions from power generation at home while supporting coal-fired projects abroad

•In November, the African Development Bank, which was to offer project financie guarantee, bowed out from the coal power project after continuous pressure from clean energy activists

Residents ride a motorbike past the proposed site of East Africa’s first coal plant in Kwasasi village, near the coastal town of Lamu
Residents ride a motorbike past the proposed site of East Africa’s first coal plant in Kwasasi village, near the coastal town of Lamu
Image: FILE

Plans are still underway for the Sh200 billion Lamu Coal Power Project despite continued resistance both locally and on a global scale.

During the 2020 UK-Africa Investment Summit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to British support for thermal coal mining or coal power plants.

He said it made no sense for Britain to cut its carbon emissions from power generation at home while supporting coal-fired projects abroad.

“Not another penny of UK tax payers money will be directly invested in digging up coal or burning it for electricity,” he said.

The UK prime minister said Britain would instead focus on helping countries extract and use oil and gas in the cleanest way possible while encouraging investment in solar, wind and hydropower schemes.

In November, the African Development Bank, which was to offer project financie guarantee, bowed out from the coal power project after continuous pressure from clean energy activists.

The project, which is financed by a consortium of Kenyan and Chinese investors, was initially set to break ground in 2015. The proposed plant has been characterised by long years of litigation.

Amu Power, which is a joint venture between Gulf Energy and Centum Investment was set to establish the coal plant with an installed capacity of 1,050 megawatts

It has however faced numerous hurdles since then, including a June 2019 environmental tribunal that halted it after activists petitioned against the plant.

Although efforts to reach both Energy CS Charles Keter and Amu Power managing director Francis Njogu proved futile, In November, Keter told one of the local dailies he was optimistic the controversial project would be steered to the end.

“We have been to similar challenges before if you remember even the World Bank pulled out of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project but we still delivered it.”

Similarly, Njogu said AfDB’s option to pull out was “just a challenge to be overcome.”

The state’s ambitious plan to generate coal-fired power suffered another blow last June after an environmental tribunal the project developers and the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) back to the drawing board.

Although the National Assembly Energy Committee pledged that the project would use advanced technology, making it safe for the environment and human health, Professor Paul Ekins, one of the authors of the 'Global Environment Outlook' report, urged Kenya to avoid coal as much as possible.

"If you are still pushing for coal, it can only be two reasons, either the policymakers do not know the real cost and they will end up paying more than they need to, or you have powerful lobbies in favour of coal that are persuading the policymakers to do something that is not in the national or international interest," he said.

Amu Power has already signed a Sh50 billion deal with American Conglomerate General Electric to design, construct and maintain the coal power plant. 

The deal will see the US-based firm take up shareholding in Amu Power.