KENYA has recorded a massive growth in the provision of electricity to its citizens, making it the leading country in East Africa to achieve this, according to World Bank figures. Between 2015 and April this year, the country recorded steady growth of 32 per cent to 73.42 per cent.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has put this down to his government’s priority of sustained investment in energy over the last five years. Opening the third general shareholders meeting of Africa50 in Nairobi last week, he said that the electricity challenge remained and he called on the private sector in Africa to support the infrastructure investment platform.
He said that if Africans themselves did not invest in their infrastructural development, how could they expect outsiders to invest in the continent. President Kenyatta then announced the doubling of Kenya’s current shareholding investment in Africa50 to $100 million.
‘We must have the confidence to trust and invest in our own infrastructure,’ he said. ‘Let us grow our partnership and make Africa50 a success.’
The recurring theme at the opening ceremony was the need for more investment in providing electricity on the continent where over 600 million people do not have access to power. The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Chairman of Africa50, Akinwumi Adesina, said at a media briefing: ‘Africa’s economies can’t function without electricity and we need this more in rural areas.’
The AfDB is investing heavily in energy in Africa and it is backing coal-fired projects in Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal following US President Donald Trump’s call to multilateral development banks to fund clean and efficient production of coal.
Adesina has said: ‘Africa must develop its energy sector with what it has. Endowed with many different energy sources – both renewable and conventional – Africa needs a balanced energy mix. This must include renewable and conventional sources of power.’
Kenya’s energy mix policy, which incudes two coal-fired plants in Lamu and Kitui, is aimed at getting the rest of the country connected to the national grid. These two projects are using the latest clean coal technology, which experts say is getting better all the time.
Feasibility studies for the 960-megawatt plant in Kitui, where coal deposits of over 400 million tons have been discovered, are underway. Kenya’s Energy Ministry said the new coal project would further diversify the country’s power mix and drive economic growth.
The Lamu plant is expected to start providing electricity in 2021, having cleared hurdles placed by local environment activists. It will produce 1,050 megawatts of power and will initially rely on coal imported from South Africa.
With other African countries turning to coal, things are beginning to look up for those without access to electricity on the continent. The World Bank noted: ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’s electrification deficit has begun to fall in absolute terms for the first time.’
There is also growing foreign interest in African coal production, with America’s General Electricity leading the way by buying a 20 per cent stake in the Lamu plant and making a commitment to provide clean coal technology.
Francis Njogu, CEO of Amu Power Company, which is building the Lamu, plant told Kenya’s Business Daily: “Coal is extremely flexible and cheap. If you look at countries in Europe, they use coal plants to moderate fluctuations in renewables.
‘You can ramp down a coal plant to 30 per cent of its capacity. So, in Lamu’s case, each phased unit is 327 MW [and] you can bring it down to 110-120 MW.
‘That way it fits the load profile of the country,’ Njogu added.
On the issue of emissions, he said that the Lamu plant would be bringing in low-sulphur coal from South Africa. ‘In addition to that, we’re required to meet the latest World Bank, AfDB and Kenya standards; basically three-tier standards.
‘We have designed a coal plant that has environmental protection system [and] that makes it a clean coal plant. It will be the most advanced plant in Africa incorporating the latest GE technology like the 2,400-megawatt Hassyan coal plant in Dubai which is under construction,’ Njogu said
President Trump is driving forward an international fossil alliance of countries prepared to use clean technology to produce coal as well as gas and oil.
The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018, published last month, showed rising coal consumption and highlighted the importance of low emission technologies.
The World Coal Association said of the Review: ‘There is often the assumption that if we get rid of coal we can meet climate objectives. However, coal is not the problem, emissions are.
‘So instead of trying to eliminate coal in order to reduce emissions we should be addressing the emissions from coal, something that will help significantly towards achieving the Paris Agreement’s ‘well below 2-degree’ target.’
The WCA said that high efficiency low emissions coal (HELE) and carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) ‘are technologies that significantly reduce emissions from coal.’
It added: “CCUS has a proven 90 per cent CO2 capture rate, while scope exists for future CCUS projects to have much improved capture rates, including zero-emissions from coal.
‘Given the reality of growing coal use, it’s imperative that these technologies are fully utilised and more widely deployed.’
Countries such as Kenya and South Africa are already deploying such technologies in their coal industries.