Kenya, as a developing country, is faced with a myriad of drawbacks. Among them, poor power supply. This impedes development and slows down the manufacturing activities in industries thus the economy cannot reach the desired double digit growth rate. Kenya lies in the Sub-Saharan Africa where only 24% of the population has access to electric power. This is by far a small percentage for a country that wants to compete globally. However, ‘Power outages’, ‘power rationing’ and ‘high electricity bills’ are terms that will soon become a thing of the past in Kenya after the establishment of Amu Power Plant Project in Lamu County.
For many years, the country has depended solely on hydro-electric and geothermal power provided mainly by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) who supply Kenya Power which is the only power utility company in Kenya. Without no alternative power supplier, Kenyan Power has been operating on a monopolistic basis thus little could be done by the citizens concerning power outages, power rationing and high electricity bills. To compound these problems, vagaries of weather has affected hydro-electric power generation. Erratic rain lowers the water levels in rivers that supply the power plants with water to turn the turbines. It is therefore essential to come up with an alternative source of power that will cushion the citizens from the aforementioned problems.
This is where Amu Power Plant Project comes in. This project aims at exploiting the coal energy for the generation of electricity to complement geothermal and hydrothermal sources of energy in Kenya. Coal has been considered because it is the cheapest source of energy. In addition, it is not affected by the vagaries of weather. The Ministry of Energy plans to construct two coal fired power plants in Kenya, one in Lamu and the other in Kitui.
Here’s what you need to know about Amu Power Plant Project
The project was slated to commence by the end of 2015 but it is yet to kick off. The delay was occasioned by objection from the losing bidder in the tender who challenged the tendering process. After the issues were addressed by the Public Private Partnership (PPP) committee, it was concluded that the bidding followed due process. This issue affected Amu Power and it lost about four months but considering the timeline starting January 2015, Amu Power promises timely completion of the project. The project is actually on track based on the proposed project timeline. In the meantime, Amu Power has been engaging the local stakeholders to identify how the firm will become a responsible member of the society in the long run. This will be done by the various CSR activities it intends to conduct in the community. The communities in Lamu face a myriad of challenges in the areas of education, health, access to clean water, unemployment especially to the youth and women.
The success of this project depends on the cohesion established by the bodies involved. These are, Ministry of Energy and Petroleum (MoEP), the National Land Commission (NLC), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). The National Land Commission has to authorize acquisition of land for projects of national importance. The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum has commissioned a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for the people who will be affected by the project. Once the RAP is complete, the NLC will guide MoEP on how land will be leased to Amu Power for the project.
Environmental and Social Impact
Amu Power has conducted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) study which is a tool for effective planning and decision making. Through this study, the developer will be forewarned of the environmental and social impacts of the project thus come up with ways and means of resolving and mitigating the issues raised in the ESIA report. This report is complete and is under review internally. Such a large scale project is capable of generating some adverse environmental and social impacts, but with the plans in place, these issues will be resolved.
Effects of Coal
There are concerns about the effects of coal on the environment. There are concerns that the power plant will emit pollutants, affect the sensitive mangrove forests and affect the status of Lamu Old Town. Although coal-fired power plants emit harmful pollutants such as Sulphur Oxides and Nitrous Oxides, Amu Power will make use of state of the art technology to reduce emission levels. There is also a properly engineered ash yard for receiving fly ash, bottom ash and gypsum from the combustion of coal in the power plant. The plant will have minimal impact on the sensitive mangrove forest but still, there are plans to grow tree seedlings which will be used in the afforestation exercises in Lamu in general. The power plant will not be in close proximity to the Lamu Old Town and the activities of the plant will not affect the town.
Cost Benefit Analysis
Coal power plants provide the most stable and reliable source of energy. This project will generate a gross power capacity of 1050MW. This will be the most cost effective and efficient power plant in the country. The construction cost will be about US $1.9 million per MW which is cheaper compared to geothermal power plant which costs about US $3 million per MW and wind power projects which cost about US $3-3.5 million per MW. Kenya power would buy electrical power at the rate of US$12cents/kWh for wind power, just over US$9cents/kWh for geothermal power and US$7.5 cents/kWh for Lamu coal power plant.
This project promises to solve some of the problems associated with energy generation in Kenya. Once it commences, it will also create employment for the locals. In the long run, the power plant will lead to the growth of the economy.