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Land disputes delay coal-fired electricity

Source:Business Daily

Consumers will have to wait longer for the cheap coal-fired electricity to be connected to the national power grid as land disputes and delay in getting environmental approval extends production timeline by two years.

The construction of the 981.5-megawatt plant in Lamu was set to start at the end of this month and complete after 21 months, on June 2017.

But Amu Power Company, the consortium that won the tender, says the earliest date it can start the construction works is December and finish by June 2019 after 42 months.

The firm says it expects the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) to approve the project’s environment impact assessment (EIA) in November 30, allowing it to start building workers’ camps, water and sewerage from December.

“It…, is expected to be operational within 42 months of construction,” Amu Power chief executive Francis Njogu said in a statement, a departure from the 21 months the firm had earlier said.

The title deed for the 870 acres of land that will host the plant in Hindi Bay of Lamu is expected on October 14 after the firm compensates the displaced residents.

The coal plant is estimated at Sh210 billion ($2 billion) and its electricity will be priced in the same range as geothermal energy at 7.52 US cents (Sh7.9) per unit — almost a third of what diesel-fired plants charge.

The Amu consortium brings together firms like Gulf Energy, Centum Investment and Power Construction Corporation of China — in charge of actual construction.

There are concerns that the plant will increase carbon emissions and present a challenge in the disposal of toxic coal ash which remains after coal is burned.

The coal ash contains pollutants such as lead and arsenic which cause respiratory ailments and water poisoning if not handled well. But Amu officials last week sought to allay the fears saying they have lined up tight safety technologies.

For instance, they plan to use the coal ash waste to manufacture low-cost road binders and cement.

Coal ash has similar properties as cement when mixed calcium hydroxide with studies showing it is more durable.

The EIA, which is prepared by investors and reviewed by Nema, details project’s site location, its likely impacts on the environment and remedy measures, alongside the project’s decommissioning if it has a lifespan.