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Why coal has no place in Kenya’s energy future

A fall in the cost of renewable energies, ever-improving technologies and the threat of climate change have all come together to make wind and solar energy more attractive than coal across the world.

Still coal accounts for 40 per cent of global electricity, according to the World Bank.

Kenya is set to build a 981.5 megawatt (MW) coal-fired thermal electricity-generating plant in the Manda Bay area, Lamu County, even as costs of renewable energies are falling dramatically and fuelling a push to phase out coal power generation around the world.

Energy Regulatory Commission figures show that as at June 2015, Kenya had an installed electricity generation capacity of 2,299MW. For its population and per capita GDP, Kenya is performing well in terms of power generated. For instance, the country’s power consumption per capita is 167 kWh (2014) compared to 145 kWh in Nigeria, which has a per capita GDP nearly five times higher.

To keep up with demand, Kenya needs to deliver 2,700 MW of new generation capacity by 2020. The successful completion of the Lamu plant would supply a third of the projected energy demand.

However, a NationNewsplex cost-benefit analysis suggests that meeting the future demand through coal power may not be a smart idea due to economic and environmental reasons as well as the nation’s vast green energy potential.

Besides the Sh205 billion it will cost to construct the Lamu plant that has a design life of 30 years and an operating life of up to 50, the coal used will be imported at a hefty cost from South Africa, for five to 10 years, until a 350km rail line is constructed from coal-producing Kitui County to Lamu.

The project development company, Amu Power, states that the project will consume between 2.4 million tonnes and 3.1 million tonnes of coal annually and on average burn 2.8 million tonnes during the same period. According to the World Bank Commodities Price Forecast, the cost of coal from South Africa in 2020 will be US$55 per tonne. This means that the annual price of the imported coal will be more than Sh17 billion each year, exclusive of the shipping cost. The distance from Richards Bay in South Africa, the port of exit, to Manda Bay in Lamu is more than 3,550km by sea and the shipment is estimated to take about two weeks. To read the whole article click here