By Eric Winston/ Guest Writer

Renowned activist Okiya Omtatah has filed a petition in court seeking to stop the Lamu coal plant project. In a case filed under certificate of urgency, Omtatah wants the court to issue a permanent injunction against the establishment of the Lamu Coal Fired Power Plant.

Omtatah argues that Kenya has an excess supply of electricity and currently has in abundance renewable sources of energy such as geothermal, hydro, solar, wind, and biomass that have hardly been tapped and therefore there is no justification for setting up the highly polluting coal-fired power plant. He accuses the government of exaggerating demand for power to justify the setting up of the plant. “Official government records show that current maximum peak demand is some 1,600MW (or 69.6%) against an installed capacity of 2300MW, giving a 700MW (or 30.4%) reserve (excess). There is a 345MW unnecessary installed capacity since required reserve (excess) should at most be 15%, meaning the installed capacity ought to be 1,955MW.” Reads the petition in part.

Electricity Generation Licence

The petition says that there is confusion as to whether an Electricity Generation Licence has been issued by Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to Amu Power Company Limited. Amu Power Company is a consortium of local and international firms.

The commission declined to disclose its licensing committee’s report and minutes approving the issuance of the license for the plant. Omtatah also wants the court to determine whether ERC‘s Acting Director General Pavel Robert Oimeke, who is not a registered engineer, is competent to issue the Electricity Generation Licence, and why the licence was issued yet  Engineer Joseph Ng‘ang‘a, the former substantive Director General of the ERC had declined to the same.

Power Purchase Agreement

Also in contention is the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that could see the taxpayer pay about Kshs36 billion per year as capacity charges whether they use the electricity or not. The PPA was signed without stakeholder involvement and public participation and therefore lacks proper energy and economic analysis, and consideration for the public interest.

The petition wants Kenya Power, Amu Power Company Limited, the Energy Regulatory Commission, the National Treasury, the Ministry of Energy & Petroleum, and the Attorney General to make full disclosure of the secretive PPA entered into between the Kenya (through Kenya Power) and Amu Power Company.

Widespread condemnation

The petition argues that the Environmental Impact Assessment report upon which NEMA licensed the project was prepared by an agent of Amu Power Limited and lacked scientific merit.

The establishment of the coal plant has received widespread condemnation because of the negative environmental impacts associated with the burning of coal. Coal power plants emit harmful pollutants into the air, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and various trace metals including mercury. This contravenes provisions of Articles 42 of the Constitution which entrenches the right to a clean and healthy environment.