Kenyan Court Puts Kibosh On Country’s First Coal-Fired Plant

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70% of Africans do not have access to a conventional electrical grid, which is why distributed renewable energy from solar panels and wind turbines is the perfect way to connect them to the modern world. But that hasn’t stopped traditional energy companies from trying to drag Africa into the 21st century with 19th century technology if there’s a buck to be made.

Kenya coal fired plant endangers Lamu
Save Lamu logo

China is moving aggressively to slash carbon emissions at home, but it is only too happy to export them to other nations. It is offering to build coal-fired generating plants throughout southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, and Africa just as long as they are built by Chinese companies

A court in Kenya has recently nixed a plan to build that country’s first coal facility — a 981 MW station backed by a Chinese-led consortium — after environmental activists sued Amu Power and the Kenyan National Environment Management Authority claiming they failed to carry out a rigorous environmental assessment and to inform local people of potential impacts, according to a report by The Guardian. They argued that the plant would have adverse effects on local fishermen and farmland. The court agreed.

The activists say the plant could trigger breathing problems for locals and acid rain, as well as increase Kenya’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 700%. Building a coal-fired generating station is contrary to Kenya’s commitment to fight the climate emergency. That commitment includes generating two-thirds of its electricity from renewable sources and reducing its carbon footprint by a third before 2030.

“One of the challenges Africa faces is the pursuit to modernize with large development projects as well as rapid and unplanned urbanization that destroys rich cultural resources, Lamu, which  is a key example of this,” said Mohammed Athman, a board member of Kenyan environmental organization Save Lamu. The city of Lamu is a 14th century community that is a world historic site that attracts visitors from all around the world.

The US ambassador to Kenya, Kyle McCarter, has made an ass of himself by arguing coal is environmentally sound, that the plant would boost the country’s economy, and that an analysis of the project by a US think tank that criticized the coal generating station was the the work of “highly paid protesters.”

A former Republican senator from Illinois, McCarter was appointed by Donald Trump and has faithfully carried water for the fossil fuel industry by promoting a version of the “all of the above” energy strategy promulgated by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “Coal is the cleanest, least costly option,” McCarter wrote in a tweet on June 26, citing his experience with coal in Illinois as evidence that burning coal would be just the ticket for Kenyans.

Mithika Mwenda, the executive director of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, one of many groups opposing the initiative, called McCarter’s comments “absurd.” She asked, “What interest does the US have in the coal-fired project? How will the economy grow if the Kenyan taxpayer is going to be subjected to hugely unsustainable debts, even before we can start producing power?” Even the Chinese ambassador to Kenya told opponents of the plant he supported the will of the Kenyan people on whether or not they want a coal-fired station.

A spokesperson for the US State Department told the Guardian the US backs an approach that takes into account “all forms of energy,” including renewables, and stressed electricity must be affordable and reliable to attract investment. “American companies and investors are ready to partner with Kenya to help them achieve an affordable and reliable power grid, in all forms of energy, to support the exponential growth expected in Kenya’s prosperous future using whichever source they choose,” the spokesperson said.

Can you imagine what idiots Americans appear to be to people in other nations with shills like McCarter running around loose making such asinine comments? Africa no more needs a continental energy grid powered by coal or natural gas than it needs its own Apollo program. It has a golden opportunity to jump over last century technology and go straight to distributed renewables. But the Trumpies can’t stop prostituting themselves for the fossil fuel industry.

The Kenyans know McCarter and his cronies are trying to sell them a bill of goods and they are having none of it. Too bad more Americans are not as aware of what’s happening in the world around them as most Kenyans are.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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