General Electric (GE) status with Lamu coal plant
In September 2020, General Electric announced that it will exit the “new build” coal market while honouring existing commitments. While GE did not specify particular project status, Business Daily concluded from this announcement that GE was abandoning the project. However, despite considerable press fanfare, GE was never materially committed to the project to date, pending “comprehensive due diligence” before a decision. GE was not included in project planning documents or contracts.
As of February 2020, General Electric remains noncommittal regarding its involvement in Lamu coal plant. The most recent correspondence between GE and Save Lamu was in early 2019. In more recent correspondence with journalists, the firm has continued to defend the project and to describe it as an ultra-supercritical coal plant despite all project documents to the contrary.
In February 2020, Save Lamu sent a follow-up letter to General Electric asking for updates on its due diligence, inviting GE to visit Lamu and engage the community, and urging the firm to exit from the project. Save Lamu is currently awaiting a response.
One year prior, in a February 2019 letter responding to Save Lamu, GE Power Regional Executive for Sub-Sahara Africa Mr. George Njenga stated that GE continues to consider a potential 20% equity investment in Lamu Coal Plant, but that the company currently has no ownership interest in the project.
The letter stated, “Despite some erroneous reports in the media, GE has no ownership interest in the Lamu project. Under the Collaboration Agreement, GE has the opportunity to acquire a 20% equity interest in the Lamu project. However, before GE would invest any equity in the project, it would need to conduct comprehensive due diligence related to the project, including, but not limited to, an independent assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the project and the mitigation that would be required to be put in place to address any such impacts [and review] a host of other information before seeking the necessary internal approvals to move forward.”
Context: GE’s overseas investments in coal
Recently, General Electric has become the target of global campaigns urging the firm to stop its overseas investments in coal power plants, as the firm now has 19 power plants planned around the world, including Lamu coal plant. In September 2019, US-based organisation Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club published an Issue Brief and related media regarding these problematic investments, which featured Lamu coal plant project. Tens of thousands of people signed the corresponding petition. A second petition from Sierra Club garnered 20,000 signatures, an extension of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. In March 2020, MarketForces, based in Australia, launched the Get Out of Coal campaign against GE’s overseas coal investments, again featuring Lamu coal plant as a case study. The campaign received national news coverage in the Los Angeles Times in the United States: “GE says it’s going green. Overseas, it’s still pushing coal.”
GE’s promotion of Lamu coal plant deal
Following its announcement, for several months in 2018, the GE “deal” had been heavily promoted by Amu Power and General Electric. Investors have made no public update about the tenuous status of the GE deal. As of mid-2019, Amu Power continues to promote the GE deal prominently on its website, while having denied the deal’s existence in court in September 2018.
Summary of timeline of public events
(details & links below)
- May 2018: Official press releases from all project developers (GE, Centum, Amu, possibly Gulf), and related media coverage, announced that a deal signed, with many witnesses and many details
- June 2018: GE activist shareholders call for divestment, which garners significant media coverage
- Late June 2018: Video news piece on Kenyan TV at a US Chamber of Commerce in Kenya summit says the deal was supposed to be signed there but wasn’t
- May to September 2018: Three months of active media promotion by Amu Power talking about “clean coal” for Lamu coal plant, which abruptly stopped after…
- September 2018: Prompted by appellants (Lamu community), Amu Power attorney Masika states in court that there is no GE deal; official court record documents confirm this (though they don’t capture Masika’s full statement that there was no deal, there was likely not going to be a deal, & he’d inform the tribunal if that changed)
- February 2019: Save Lamu writes letter to GE to seek clarification on the status, gets a prompt letter back confirming there is no existing deal, and stating strongly that approval would be predicated upon very rigorous due diligence (suggesting it will not move forward, but leaving the door open to the possibility)
GE’s trend of overseas coal investments
- Lamu coal plant is one of a potential dozen announced deals: A trend of new GE overseas coal investments (December 2018)
- GE’s announced coal plants include ones in Egypt (though perhaps it’s on hold?), Poland, Pakistan (“Pakistan’s first lignite-fuelled ultra-supercritical power plant of Lucky Electric in Bin Qasim”), Vietnam Long Phu (where proponents lied about emissions/tech), Cambodia, Dubai (Hassyan, in which they say the 2400MW capacity coal plant “will play an important role supporting the UAE Clean Energy Strategy 2050” to diversify sources)
- In May 2019 in Kosovo, after the World Bank pulled out of its last coal plant, a controversial project mired in years of debate and litigation, GE stepped in to fund it.
There was a good amount of news coverage of the deal, including with statements from those involved. In fact, Amu Power announced six statements on GE: https://amupower.co.ke/news.html. Amu Power into August was tweeting to promote the GE deal and the new clean tech.
GE statements on the deal on their websites:
“Kenya’s Amu Power Signs Clean Coal Technology Agreement with GE”
- https://ge.africa-newsroom.com/press/kenyas-amu-power-signs-clean-coal-technology-agreement-with-ge (copy of PR)
Media coverage following that announcement:
- From Kirubi-owned Capital FM: https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/business/2018/05/ge-acquire-stake-amu-power-clean-coal-technology-deal/
- Various tweets and Facebook posts in May, June, July, August, September, from @EnergyMinK @AmuPower @Centum_Inv et al.
- This whole thread from @EnergyMinK https://twitter.com/EnergyMinK/status/996645851245228034
- @AmuPower https://twitter.com/AmuPower/status/996752763324436480
- @Centum_Inv https://twitter.com/Centum_Inv/status/996732259465129989
TV reporter says deal was supposed to be signed / finalised at US Chamber of Commerce event and wasn’t:
450 million dollar deal between Gulf Energy & General Electric for the development of coal power…
NTV reporting from the American Chamber of Commerce, Kenya, Economic Summit on 28 June 2018:
July 2018: Activist Shareholders in US call on GE to pull out
- As You Sow & Proxy Impact — Joint Letter to GE Regarding Amu Power’s Lamu Coal Plant
- Following comments based on the above June 2018 reporting, “Kenya reconsiders investment in Lamu coal plant” (also here)
- Commentary from Dan Kammen and Oxfam et al: Does Kenya need coal?
- Some propaganda in Kenyan media: “US trying to regain foothold in the region” — Relevant paragraph: “Take energy. An American company, General Electric or GE as it is more commonly known, is at the heart of Kenya’s drive through a consortium dubbed Amu Power to introduce 1050 megawatts of coal power into the Kenyan energy mix. The project is expected to make the Africa debut of GE’s ultra-super critical coal burning technology that is the cleanest coal on a global scale and similar to what is currently being installed at the 2,400MW Hassyan clean coal power station ultra-supercritical (USC) power plant being developed in Saih Shuaib, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.”
September 2018: Activists with 350 in San Francisco protest GE investment in Lamu coal plant
Protests in San Francisco over General Electric Investment in Lamu coal plant (one of several articles)
Save Lamu writes letter seeking clarification of GE involvement, GE writes back responsively but noncommittally, Save Lamu publishes press release:
Save Lamu’s press release in full:
Explanation of latest developments:
GE denies investment in Lamu coal plant, contrary to media reports; Lamu coal plant to remain with older, dirtier coal technology
American multinational conglomerate General Electric (GE) now denies having any stakes in Amu Power, the consortium pushing to build Kenya’s first coal plant, in Lamu, Kenya.
In their public relations from May to September 2018, GE and Amu Power heavily promoted the use of so-called “clean coal” technology for Lamu coal plant, in press statements and social media.
Without GE’s involvement, Lamu coal plant will use 50-year-old supercritical coal technology, as elaborated in all official project plans, whilst the GEdeal would have brought slightly more efficient “ultra-supercritical” coal technology equipment.
In a February 2019 letter responding to Save Lamu, GE Power Regional Executive for Sub-Sahara Africa Mr. George Njenga stated that GE continues to consider a potential 20% equity investment in Lamu Coal Plant, but that the company currently has no ownership interest in the project.
Mr Njenga further stated that “before GE would invest any equity in the project, it would need to conduct comprehensive due diligence related to the project, including, but not limited to, an independent assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the project and the mitigation that would be required to be put in place to address any such impacts [and review] a host of other information before seeking the necessary internal approvals to move forward.”
Announcement contradicts “clean coal” promises
In May 2018, General Electric, Amu Power, Gulf Energy, and Centum Investments had announced their new deal: equity investment and supplying of equipment for Lamu Coal Plant, as detailed considerably in the jointly released press statement, “Kenya’s Amu Power Signs Clean Coal Technology Agreement with GE.” Officials commented on the deal in the media reports that followed.
On 21 September 2018, Amu Power attorney Masika indicated in court, “No signed agreements with GE at all,” as recorded in the court record. In response to appellants’ inquiries regarding the publicly announced deal with GE, Masika confirmed that there were no changes to the project plans that necessitated a reconsideration of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment. The ESIA is currently being appealed by Save Lamu members in the National Environmental Tribunal, and is awaiting judgment, as of March 2019.