Pro-coal arguments from developers and government officials

Coal in Kenya
5 min readFeb 24, 2020


With regard to coal mining in Kitui, many statements by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu:

Kalonzo Musyoka as far back as 2008:

Gulf Energy CEO Suleiman Shahbal:

“Then there is the 1050 Megawatt Coal based power plant. This will bring in new industries and create much needed business and employment opportunities… Either we make that difficult choice and use the cheaper coal and create those jobs — or spend another 20 years dreaming of industralisation and job creation.

“Chemicals can be deadly if used in excess. For example, 500mg of paracetamol (Panadol) will cure you, but 5,000 grams will kill you. That is the logic of chemistry. The same logic applies to all emissions from a coal plant, whether it be sulphur, carbon-dioxide or nitrogen.”

Remarks of Lamu coal plant main investor Centum director Chris Kirubi in 2015:

“Coal power is what is used in many developed countries with few complaints… we cannot hold back development… developed nations have made [our air] dirty… We are going to transform the coast… we plan to desalinate water and supply it to the entire county. The problem of water scarcity will be a thing of the last.”

Sanjay Gandhi, Lamu coal plant ESIA author and Amu Power press relations spokesman:

“We’re actually going to be emitting very very low levels of… participate matter… It’s misplaced to think that there is going to be health impacts…”

In 2016, early in the project planning, Deputy President William Ruto campaigned vocally for the project and criticised opponents. He advised local leaders to “seek information” and “avoid scaring away investors” and criticised “leaders who use misinformed propaganda to sway the public’s opinion concerning mega development projects intended to benefit the county,” according to reporting.

The energy project will have no negative implications on the locals’ health or the environment. [BarakaFM]

We don’t want people opposing development projects that they have no knowledge of. These projects are meant to change the lives of our people…

There is need to ensure the power-generation capacity is increased… We shall also have in place industrial parks, resort cities, the standard gauge railway and others. All these require adequate power production and supply…

Today, I want to assure Lamu residents that the government is responsible and will ensure that the health and safety of the citizens is considered as we establish development projects like the coal plant.

In June 2019, the Government of Kenya held a press briefing focused on Lamu coal plant to convey that the government intends to pursue the project. Col. Cyrus Oguna, government spokesman, from Ministry of Information, Communications, and Technology:

Lamu coal plant “will be an enabler of Kenya’s industrial growth.”

For years, Energy Cabinet Secretary Keter has also defended Lamu coal plant, though he has also recognised the most likely scenario. When his ministry back-burnered Kenya’s 5000 MW energy plan and acknowledged that demand has not grown as it predicted, CS Keter admitted that excess energy supply would push up costs and render plants idle:

We’re saving a lot in terms of kWh. [with Lamu coal plant]

The newly built power plants of coal right now are environmentally clean. If you look at China, most of their power supply is through coal; US, all the countries worldwide. So in the essence of Kenya, if we require over 30,000 MW of power for us to be an industrialised, nation, we require all kinds of sources of power…

When you have the equipment running, you have to bill for maintenance and this pushes up the cost of power. If we introduce more capacity, it means that power will be costly because the demand is not there.

In January 2020, CS Keter again defended the Lamu coal plant project. When asked “Is the project ongoing? Was it stopped?” he responded (among other more difficult to decipher points) that Kenya is already “in conformity with COP 20” in which countries pledged that 70% of electricity supply be renewable:

Because in the world right now we have the clean coal, which most of the countries are going. Even if you see some of the countries are investing in that. Because, if Kenya wants to be industrial, we have to have a good energy mix. And that’s what what we are saying is, if you see, we are in conformity with COP 20, which was passed in France, that it has to be 70% renewable. Already we are doing 95%. And once we clear the remaining 5% of thermals, then we will work towards.

Immediately after taking over the agency after the sudden departure of his predecessor, shifting from his role as Director of Renewable Energy, Energy Regulatory Commission (now EPRA) director Pavel Oimeke said in an interview in January 2017:

Basically we have enough… we actually have more than enough power to power our country.

One of the technologies that the government is promoting is power production from coal.

We know all over the world, if we read how countries developed, how the US has developed, how the UK developed, even Russia, they developed by use of coal power. Why did they use coal power? Because coal power is cheap. So what we’re saying is as a commission and as part of government is that we need a mix, an energy mix, that covers both generation that are low cost but also at the same time generation that conserves the environment. So we want to pursue as a country…

So that is why the coal that is coming up in Lamu. It can ensure to bring in large quantities of power. Close to 1000 mw. That will have the net effect of reducing the overall consumer tariffs, the overall costs of energy to the consumers. So these are the measures that we are working on as government.

Government press conference advocating coal industry development in June 2019

Government position in calling for AfDB support for Lamu coal plant

The Proposed Lamu coal plant: A Case for Replacing Expensive Diesel Thermal Plants and High Emissions Biomass: PDF here

Amos Cheptoo, Advisor in Kenya ED office to AfDB

As presented in May 2018 at civil society meetings.



Coal in Kenya

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