Coal has potential to be backbone of our economy


An excavator loads coal at Macarthur Coal's Moorvale mine in Australia. FILE PHOTO | NMG

As a developing country Kenya has had a growing demand for energy that has continually outstripped supply majorly driven by current and future infrastructure projects such as LAPSSET, SGR electrification and many others.

Currently, Kenya’s electricity is generated from geothermal (47 per cent of consumption), hydropower (39 per cent), thermal (13 per cent) and wind (0.4 per cent). 

Kenya’s current installed electricity capacity is estimated at 2.4GW, 1.5GW of which is grid-connected and 500MW of which has come online since mid-2014.

Despite increasing installed capacity, the demand for power in Kenya is rising at a faster pace than supply, and consumption of electricity per consumer is decreasing. 

This may be attributable to inadequate expansion of the network that connects individuals with low demand for electricity, or unmatched demand due to slow increase in generation compared to rise in consumers.

Further future infrastructure projects such as electrification of the standard gauge railway popularly known as Madaraka Express which is espoused to run from Mombasa to Kisumu, Transportation of Oil from Turkana to Mombasa through oil pipelines and other projects under the vision 2013 are bound to increase the energy appetite.

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In order to meet this future demand the Kenya government through AMU Power are setting up a coal plant in Lamu albeit ferocious resistance majorly from the local community and environmentalists who submit that the project would cause irreversible damage to the environment, lead to a rise in pollution related illnesses and disrupt their livelihoods among other reasons.

Coal, and other fossil fuels, remain the backbone of the global energy system and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

The discussion Kenya should be having is how we deploy current technology such as carbon capture, use and storage to ensure coal plants in Kenya do not emit as much harmful emissions as traditional coal plants.

Kenyans must understand that the basic attraction of coal remains its low cost and abundance.

Victor Otieno is managing director of Viffa Consult.