Kenya set to break ground on colossal coal-fired power plant

Kenya is set to start building a giant coal-fired power station at Manda Bay near the port city of Lamu following the signing of a $1.9bn agreement between Amu Power and China Power Global.

Using the latest supercritical technology, the 1GW plant is expected to boost Kenya’s generating capacity by 40%. The Kenyan government hopes work will start in June or July and that the plant will start producing electricity by 2019.

Charles Keter, Kenya’s energy secretary (pictured), said a power-purchase agreement had been "initialled" and a contract to build a 400kV transmission line from Lamu to Nairobi had been awarded.

He anticipated complaints on environmental grounds by saying modern coal plants are not as damaging as they used to be, and its construction was essential to country’s industrial future.

"Newly built coal plant are environmentally clean," he said. "If you look at China, most of their power supply is through coal. So, given that Kenya requires over 30GW of power to be an industrialised nation, we require all kinds of sources of power."

Plans to build the Lamu Power Project were first announced in 2013, when the Kenyan government asked for expressions of interest. In September 2014 a public-private partnership deal was signed with the Amu Power a special purpose company set up by two Kenyan firms, Gulf Energy and Centum Investment.

The consortium will finance and build the plant, then operate it for a 25-year concession period. About $1bn of the funding was provided by the Industrial Commercial Bank of China.

The project was expected to begin in September 2015, but was delayed by problems acquiring the land and resettling the people who would be displaced by the project.

China Power Global will now build the plant over 400ha on a coastal site about 20km north of Lamu. It will consist of three 350MW units with a coal receiving terminal for handling pulverised coal. This will initially be imported, and later will use recently discovered Kenyan coal.

The plant’s smokestack will be 210m high, meaning it would be Africa’s tallest structure if it is finished before a 250-m skyscraper now planned for Morocco.

PowerChina said it plans to hire 1,400 Chinese workers, constituting 40% of the plant’s labour force.

The project is being billed as part of the Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport project (LAPSSET), a grand plan to link Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan with a rail, road, fibre-optic and pipeline corridor.

Image: Charles Keter signs the agreement with China Power Global (Amu Power)

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  1. 1. “Newly built coal plant are environmentally clean”. This is nonsense. I’m going to use a Wikipedia entry as I’m short of time…

    “Fossil fueled power stations are major emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas which according to a consensus opinion of scientific organisations is a contributor to global warming. Per unit of electric energy, brown coal emits nearly two times as much CO2 as natural gas, and black coal emits somewhat less than brown. Carbon capture and storage of emissions is not currently available.”

    2. “If you look at China, most of their power supply is through coal. So, given that Kenya requires over 30GW of power to be an industrialised nation, we require all kinds of sources of power.” This is a logical fallacy. The first sentence may be true, but does not lead to the conclusion of the second sentence. Apart from that, it’s all good and makes total sense.

    3. Additionally:

    “Lamu Old Town [a world heritage site] is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, retaining its traditional functions. Built in coral stone and mangrove timber, the town is characterized by the simplicity of structural forms enriched by such features as inner courtyards, verandas, and elaborately carved wooden doors.” What it’s clearly lacking, however, is a 1/4km high chimney down the road to really set it off.

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