Treasury budgets for Lamu coal plant despite activists’ protests

Lame residents takes part in a demonstration against the government plans to build coal plant in Lamu,/File
Lame residents takes part in a demonstration against the government plans to build coal plant in Lamu,/File

The government has listed the controversial 1,050 megawatt Lamu Coal Plant among its planned Public Private Partnership for the financial period up to 2021.

This is despite the project facing opposition from environmentalists, who argue the plant will release toxic pollutants and leave behind ash that can contaminate groundwater supplies.

The National Treasury in the Draft 2019 Budget Policy Statement released on Friday last week ranked the coal plant together with 105 MW Menengai Phase 1 geothermal as key energy sector projects to be pursued in the current financial year.

‘’Public Private Partnership project agreements have been signed for the following projects and conditions precedent to Financial Close are being addressed,’’ Treasury said in the policy statement.

The project under the Amu Power Company, a consortium of Gulf Energy and Centum Investment, is set to be established on 975 acres at Kwasasi Village, Hindi division, in Lamu West.

The government has been pro the project, which it terms as clean-coal, with Treasury including it in the 2018 budget statement.

“The plant, which will located in Manda Bay, is on Build Own Operate model over a 25-year concession period,” Treasury CS said in June.

The coal plant is part of the government’s initiative aimed at producing 5000 MW by 2020.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Beijing in 2017, he witnessed the signing of a Sh205 billion agreement between Power China Resources and Gulf Energy for the Lamu plant.

Even so, the project has faced strong opposition from environmentalists, with High Court in Nairobi restoring orders to stop the project on September 24 last year. The petitions were filed by the Katiba Institute and activist Okiya Omtatah.

In July last year, 56 institutional and individual investors at General Electric with assets valued $713 billion (Sh71.3 trillion) asked the company to pull out from the project.

In December, Lamu Council of Elders chairman Sharif Salim said it was ironical for the government to push for green energy and a coal project at the same time. He said the region will oppose the project at all cost.

“It is not wise for the government to push for the establishment of the deadly project despite the loud opposition from activists, local leaders and residents,” Salim said.

GE had two months earlier agreed to buy a Sh40 billion stake in Amu Power and to manage and maintain the Lamu coal plant.