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Economy

Kenya plans 960-MW coal-fired power plant in Kitui

Electricity will be priced in the same range as
Electricity will be priced in the same range as geothermal power at 7.52 US cents (Sh7.52) per unit. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya plans to set up a 960-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Kitui where coal deposits were discovered, with feasibility studies underway.

The Treasury’s report for public-private partnership (PPP) projects has flagged the power plant as among the proposed State mega undertakings.

If implemented, it will be Kenya’s second coal project after the one in Lamu, which is expected to go live in 2021 after suffering delays since 2015.

“The project description is the development of a 960-megawatt coal-fired power plant, located on the eastern side of Mui Basin in Kitui County via an IPP (independent power producer) framework,” the Treasury says in its PPP programme status report for June 2018. “Feasibility studies are ongoing.”

The Energy ministry, the contracting authority, reckons that coal project will help diversify Kenya’s power mix and drive growth.

Kenya has in recent years discovered coal deposits within the Mui Basin in Kitui, having struck more than 400 million tonnes with further exploration ongoing but mining is yet to begin.

Coal is mainly burnt to produce electricity as a global practice but it can also be processed as an alternative petroleum as is the case in South Africa.

The mining contract for a section of the Mui coal block had been awarded to Chinese firm Fenxi Mining but work is yet to take off. Location of the proposed plant near the mining fields is expected to cut transport costs.

The earlier conceived Lamu coal plant at the Coast is slightly larger at 1,050 megawatts and will initially rely on imported coal from South Africa.

Electricity will be priced in the same range as geothermal power at 7.52 US cents (Sh7.52) per unit — almost a third of what diesel-fired plants charge on average.

Aside from using coal to generate electricity, South Africa uses the mineral to produce petrol and diesel. South African firm Sasol has a plant near Johannesburg that converts coal into liquid petroleum.

A group of global organisations has discouraged Kenya from setting up the coal plant over environmental concerns.

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