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US firm loses battle for Sh21b Lamu wind farm

By Frankline Sunday | May 5th 2020

US energy firm Cordisons International has lost an 11-year battle to put up a Sh21 billion wind power farm in Lamu County.

The Supreme Court last week threw out the appeal by Cordisons that sought to compel the National Land Commission (NLC) to issue the firm with a leasehold to 11,000 acres of land in Kiongwe, Lamu County to build a wind farm.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the decision made by the Court of Appeal in 2017 that found Cordisons International Kenya, the firm’s Kenyan subsidiary, erred in seeking leasehold approvals from the Lamu County instead of the NLC.

“It is obvious to us that the appellant (Cordisons International) had not taken cognizance of the new land policy that had been ushered by the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and the Land Act and as a result backed the wrong horse,” stated the court in its judgment.

“The appellant ought to have engaged the National Land Commission as soon as it came into operation, given its constitutional and statutory role in allocation of public land,” states the judgment.

Cordisons says it was granted leasehold to the 11,000-acre parcel in 2009 to set up a wind-power farm by the Lamu County government.

In 2016, however, the NLC awarded Kenwind Holdings Ltd, a subsidiary of Belgian energy company Electrawinds, with leasehold to set up a 90MW wind farm on 3,206 acres of the disputed parcel.

This prompted Cordisons to move to court to seek judicial review, first to the Environment and Land Court in Malindi, through to the Court of Appeal and finally the Supreme Court.

Last week’s judgement brings to an end a protracted suit by the power firm that had promised the largest renewable power project in the Coast region.

The Supreme Court judgment also paves way for Kenwind Holdings to proceed with its 90MW Baharini Wind Power project.

In February this year, Kenya Power signed a 20-year power purchasing agreement with Baharini Wind Power after a month-long delay that saw the Belgian investors threaten to pull out.

Baharini had proposed 12 US cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which Kenya Power shot down and the two parties settled on 7 US cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

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