Leaders elect to dialogue for truce in Kitui coal impasse
Source: Daily Nation
Government plans to establish a coal-fired power plant in Lamu County have caused unease among Kitui County leaders as controversy over the region’s coal mining project rages.
The leaders are worried that the proposed Sh3.5-billion power plant in Lamu will sidestep the locally available Kitui coal deposits, which cannot be exploited until a court case over mining concessions is resolved. They now want the government to shelve plans for the Lamu project as they embark on consultations to settle the matter.
They spoke at a crisis meeting chaired by Energy and Petroleum secretary Davis Chirchir in Nairobi where they took stock of their collective failure to provide leadership on the matter.
The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum has invited bids from investors for the development of two power plants with a combined output of up to 1,800 megawatts from coal and natural gas.
The Lamu County project is expected to produce 1000 MW and would be situated in near the proposed $5 billion mega port, while the natural gas plant would be located in the Dongo Kundu area near the Mombasa port.
According to chief geologist John Omenge, the Lamu plant, bidding on which closed this week, will be run on coal imported from South Africa until exploitation of the Kitui deposits gets underway.
While the government says it is responding to increased demand for electricity occasioned by the planned construction of the standard gauge railway, and the setting up of Konza Techno City and other ICT towns, Kitui leaders see this as a calculated move to sideline their region.
Mr Chirchir dropped the bombshell early this week when he said the government was not short of options in addressing the country’s energy challenges and could therefore not sit and watch as court cases derailed the coal mining project.
Kitui legislators and Governor Julius Malombe attended a meeting at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies to sort out the issue. The leaders asked why the government was planning to import coal for the proposed Lamu plant instead of accelerating the mining project and building a plant in Kitui, closer to raw materials.