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We need coal energy to industrialize, government spokesperson

Kenya’s  economic blue print  Vision  2030  seeks to see the country industrialise as it moves to become a middle income  earner and this is only possible with a reliable and cheap source of energy.

Energy drives all aspects of economic activities from agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, commerce among many  others.

The  Government  Spokesperson, Col. (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna  while addressing the press on Thursday said energy remains the most  essential component for industrialisation and more so for countries like Kenya which requires to move its industrial base to a new level.

“To  drive industrial growth, a country needs to invest in affordable, stable and reliable source of energy and for Kenya  that has been identified as coal fired power and one of such plants is to be constructed in Lamu County,” Oguna  said.

“Once  commissioned in 2024, the Lamu based coal power plant will be the main source of power to drive the manufacturing  sector and the big4 initiative which will in return create jobs,” he explained.

Oguna  added that the coal power plant will be the anchor source of power for the projected Special Economic and Industrial  Zones  as well as the Lamu-Port South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPPSET) corridor project.

“As  you may be aware, industrialisation requires a reliable, stable and cheaper source of energy which will make Kenya a  more attractive investor destination,” he posed.

Oguna  explained that once established the coal power plant will generate over 1, 000 Mega Watts (MW) which will add  to the  country’s current capacity of 2, 712 MW against the country’s industrial power need of 5, 000 MW.

“Coal  energy  will  also help in the gradual replacement of the diesel power plant in Mombasa which has aged and is  currently expensive to operate,” said Oguna.

The  project  has  been receiving controversial media reports in regard to the cost of financing, ownership and environmental  issue.

But  the  government  spokesperson  explained that the project was a Public Private Partnership (PPP) and Kshs.200 billion  will  be injected by a private developer who will recover the investment through selling of power to consumers until  the  year 2050.

“The  cost  of  power to the consumers will be much lower compared to the currently available power sources. The cost  will be at 7.8 US cents/Kw which is cheaper compared to current geothermal cost of 8.24 US cents/Kw while thermal is 36 US cents/Kw,” highlighted Oguna.

On  issues  raised about environmental impacts, Oguna  said the Lamu coal plant will use the Ultra-Super critical (USC) a  very  modern technology famed for High Efficiency-Low Emission (HELE) levels and Kenya will be the first country in Africa  to possess the technology.

“Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) was conducted and a report prepared. However, the matter is currently  before a court of law and cannot be discussed further until the courts make a ruling,” he said.

Oguna  dispelled  allegations that Kenya was embracing coal energy while other countries were cutting back on the same, saying  that countries such as Germany, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey among other who ratified the Paris agreement  and are going back to coal energy.

Paris  Agreement  is  a UN led initiative to combat climate change and the need to intensify investment in a low carbon  future.

“There  is  no  country  in  the world which has industrialised without using coal power, other countries that use coal to  power  their industrial base include India, South Korea, Japan, USA and South Africa,” said Oguna.

“A comparative analysis of Kenya’s energy mix reveals that it is only coal and geothermal that can effectively drive our  industrial needs. The mix comprises of geothermal 50 percent, Hydro 28 percent, Wind/solar 12 percent and thermal 10  percent,” he highlighted.

He  added  that though Kenya has massive potential on geothermal energy, geothermal power generating plant takes between 7-8  years compared to only 30 months for coal energy while solar and wind energy are susceptible to weather changes whereas  potential for hydro has been exhausted.

Responding  to  those  alluding there was no public participation; Oguna said that a public participation committee was  steered  by the Lamu governor in 2014/2015 with different sections of the communities across the county represented.

Oguna  called on Kenyans to put nationalism and the interest of the country first, saying people should question those who are much against the project, their source of funds and those who are behind their loudest noise.

“Coal  energy  will  be  a  game  changer for Kenya and there are many people who do not want to see us develop and  industrialise so that we remain a market for their goods,” he said.

By  Joseph  Ng’ang’a

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