A short history of attempted coal development in Kenya

For over a decade, the Kenyan government has advocated for and pursued the development of a coal energy industry. As of May 2020, it is still actively stating its intent to do so.

Since 2000, the Ministry of Energy conducted coal prospecting efforts in Kwale and Kilifi in Coast Province and the Mui Basin in Kitui. Coal discoveries in Kitui led to the inclusion of coal in the government’s mining and energy sector planning.

From 2010 to 2014, Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) planned 600MW coal plants in Mombasa and Kilifi. In 2014 National Cement announced its plans to build a smaller 15MW coal plant in Kajiado, which would provide electricity for its planned mining and clinker manufacturing operation. In July 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources listed ongoing “coal development in Lamu, Dongo-Kundu, Kilifi, Kwale, Meru/Isiolo.”

From 2016 to 2020, active coal development efforts have focused on the creation of a mining industry in Kitui County and a 1050MW processing plant in Lamu.

Kitui coal mining would be Kenya’s first foray into coal production. The proposed Lamu plant would become the first coal plant in East Africa.

Attempted coal industry projects in Kenya include mining exploration efforts at the coast and in Kitui, as well as plans for several prospective coal plants, with the proposed Lamu coal plant being the most prominent, and a similar-sized proposed plant for Kitui continues to appear in government plans.

Since 2000, the Ministry of Energy has conducted exploratory activities in coal prospecting in the Mui Basin, Kitui, as well as Kwale and Kilifi in Coast Province.

In 2010, four hundred million tonnes of coal reserves were confirmed in the Mui Basin, Kitui County.

In 2011, KenGen began planning for a 300mw coal plant in Mombasa. It subsequently moved the potential plant’s location (which had been on a flight path, with too high a chimney), converted the plant from coal to natural gas, and then cancelled it in 2014.

Also in 2011, KenGen conducted feasibility assessments for a potential 600mw coal plant “at the Coast that will use clean coal technology” and received approval to procure a Joint Venture Partner for the plant.

In its Horizon II Capacity Expansion plan, KenGen listed its plans to commission the 600mw coal plant at Kilifi in July 2016, indicated that it was in the process of land acquisition, and noted that the new power station would require the construction of a “400 kV transmission line and the 400 kV substations.” However, a Kilifi coal plant has not been listed in government plans in the years since, nor been publicly announced or discussed.

In 2014, media reports announced a potential 15 MW coal plant in Kajiado. The company National Cement was “set to build a 15 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Kajiado at a cost of Sh1.7 billion as part of its expansion plan… The plant will feed its upcoming limestone mining and clinker manufacturing operation in the same location… Besides seeking lower costs, National Cement says it has been forced to put up the coal plant due to Kenya Power’s delays in connecting its Kajiado operations… The annual coal consumption for the proposed power plant is estimated at 63,360 tonnes.”

Also, as Kenya’s National Climate Change Action plan notes, Many cement manufacturers in Kenya plan to turn to coal as a reliable and cheap fuel source, which will lead to increased GHG emissions.”

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Coal in Kenya

Compiled research and news about ongoing attempts to develop a coal industry in Kenya. #deCOALonize