Two Cabinet secretaries differ strongly on Lamu power project


Two Cabinet secretaries (CSs) seem to be reading from different scripts on the Lamu power project.

While Energy CS Charles Keter signed the deal in China, saying the Government was committed to the project , his Environment counterpart Judi Wakhungu disowned the project terming it a danger to the environment.

According to Mr Keter, the Lamu coal power plant was incorporated as part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) corridor is well on its way to realisation following the signing of a Sh206 billion agreement between China Power Global and Amu power.

“The Lamu Power plant is one of the biggest plans under the public-private partnership framework. I am optimistic that the plant should be up and running in two years’ time,” Keter said when he signed the deal in China a month ago.

“If all goes well they can do their groundbreaking by June, July, this year,” he added.

Keter said the plant is expected to inject 1,050MW into the power grid and will contribute to a stable power supply. He said his ministry had already started the process of building a transmission line — the 400kV line from Lamu to Kitui to Nairobi — which he claimed had been awarded to three contractors.

While in China, Keter said Kenya has been depending on hydro but because of global warming, it has been experiencing a lot of problems.

The coal plant’s biggest selling point however is that it will provide a cheap source of power. “We’re saving a lot in terms of kWh,” Keter said.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu last week said coal is dirty and that her ministry is opposed to the proposed Sh204.3 billion plant in Lamu.

Prof Wakhungu said the energy project would destroy the local environment and affect the health of the population.

“The Ministry of Environment is quite clear that there is no clean coal; coal is dirty, there is nothing like clean coal,” said Wakhungu.

Wakhungu said although Kenya faces an electricity deficit and needs to invest more to step up production, there was consensus in Government that coal power is dirty and hence not the solution to the country’s energy shortage.

Her sentiments came as a shock especially when considering that both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy are keen to have the project take off.

Recently, Deputy President William Ruto accused county leaders of inciting local residents against the project and insisted that new technology would be used to minimise the negative effects of the controversial investment.

Meanwhile, the tribunal resumes its sittings early next month.

By then, it will be interesting to know whether the two ministers will still be reading from different scripts.

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