Why lobbyists should lay off Kenya's coal projects

Coal
Africa Development Bank’s (AfDB) expected backing of Kenya’s 1,000-megawatt coal power project will give a much-needed boost to the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor project.

The funding is also expected to kick-start industrial development in Lamu and Kitui counties.

But this can only happen if the leaders in the two counties choose to focus on the big picture and end sideshows that have threatened to derail the ambitious project.

Squabbles bedevilled the setting up of the coal-powered project in Lamu and the mining of coal in Kitui have been fuelled by local groups egged on by competing political interests.

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The lobby groups opposed to the exploitation of the vast deposits of coal with an estimated value of over Sh3.4 trillion are largely funded by interest groups in countries that were industrialised using coal power. What is even more surprising is that these countries — in Europe and America — still rely on coal to power their industries because it is a less expensive alternative.

Reduce emissions

It is ironical then to suggest that Kenya and the rest of the least industrialised world should freeze development for the sake of reducing environmental damage. In its efforts to win over these environmental warriors, Amu Power promoters have roped in the American multinational conglomerate General Electric in a deal estimated at Sh50 billion.

General Electric is expected to provide the state-of-the-art technology that will greatly reduce, if not entirely eliminate, harmful emissions from the coal-powered plant. It is hard to see what possible excuse the environmentalists would use to justify their objection to the building of the power plant now unless their objections are subjective and are meant to keep Kenya in a perpetual state of under-development.

After all, there is a consensus that no country can compete in today’s competitive global trade until it can produce quality goods at competitive prices. The major hurdle for Keny is the high cost of electricity which currently accounts for about a third of the entire production expenses for manufacturers. The continued failure to bring down these costs will further see more manufacturers leave for countries with lower power prices such as Egypt.

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[Mbatau wa Ngai, [email protected]]

Africa Development BankAfDBLapssetCoalcoal plant