ENERGY PRIORITIES

Amu Power licence revocation a step in the right direction

Coal and nuclear were good for the industrial revolution, but truth be told, these are not commercially viable and environmentally friendly sources of energy

In Summary

• As others ditch coal, we are taking up the third-rate technology as the panacea to our energy needs

Coal protest
Coal protest
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

In our salad days, only the firstborns had sartorial taste, for we the followers, we were, by order, supposed to respect that, a year or two later, we would have the same hand-me-down dress, shoes or sweater.

For us pre-millenials, it was a common phenomenon. The best of our expectation was to wish for better judgment by our elders siblings. The best of judgment, by circumstance, is what we are witnessing in two key news: energy-wise Germany (the biggest economy in Europe) made a conscious decision that coal will never be in their energy mix and are closing their 84 remaining coal plants within this period. Britain, the land where coal miners defined the leadership of their first woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, have committed to rid themselves of coal by the year 2050.

Here in Kenya, as a country with first-rate ambitions, we are taking up third-rate technology, coal. In fact, we are touting it as the panacea to our energy needs. The ancient technology is being facilitated by General Electric, a technologically advanced company. It's a pity it’s engaged in Paleozoic-era technology such as coal.

The US has been a world leader in technology and conservation efforts, especially where green and clean energy is concerned. The downside was President Trump’s first Executive order that saw them pull out of the Paris Agreement. This was a carte blanche for all its industries to pursue profits, climate change notwithstanding.

Climate Change has been declared an International Emergency by none other than Pope Francis. That confirms the role of religious organisations in conservation efforts. If you are biblically inclined, an edict was given to Adam to sustainably use the earth's resources, but of all religions, the Buddhist take the crown in conservation efforts.

Bhutan is a Buddhist-majority country. It is the only country to be declared carbon negative, meaning it's a country that sinks more carbon dioxide than it produces, thanks to its vast forests and a religious adherence to conservation.

Thailand, a majority Buddhist country, commemorates every occasion with tree planting. It's not the empty gestures given by our leaders who plant a single tree, but every citizen participates in tree planting, like it happened when their King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away. And every rite of passage is honored by tree planting.

Lamu archipelago has always benefitted from the religious and socio-cultural beliefs of the Mijikenda people. The Miji-Kenda, or Nine Kayas, have protected the holy sites (Kayas) where they perform their rites since time immemorial. The sites are forested mangrove eco-systems.

Development at all cost would be going against the religious beliefs of all major religious systems. The government's insistence on proceeding with the Amu power plant project is by and large guided by interest of first-world countries intent on hand-me-down economics (otherwise known as dumping). China itself is decommissioning a vast majority of its coal mines. Why as a developing country can we not foresee the effects of fossil fuel on our fragile eco-system? Our elder siblings already have.

Public participation in all matters governance is enshrined in our constitution, but from experience, more or less as a casual observer, I came to a conclusion that such forums are hijacked by politicians, who perhaps by guile, decibel and probably guided by ulterior rather altruistic interests, outshine all other participants.

It happened when the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board held a joint Consumers Dialogue Forum on nuclear electricity on December 21, 2018, in Kisumu county. View the media clips on the same to confirm this.

Coal and nuclear may have had their Andy Warhol's moment, their 15 minutes of fame during the industrial revolution, but truth be told, these are not commercially viable and environmentally friendly sources of energy, despite the subsidies and global economy that backs them. Kenya with its famed M-pesa innovation that leapfrogged the credit card as cashless transaction provider would do well to leapfrog fossilised ideas, such as coal and nuclear technology.

Rose Hassan is the Kisumu Branch Manager for Solarnow Kenya, A renewable energy company