Lamu town 

Kenya’s Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has approved the construction of the country’s first coal-fueled power plant near the Indian Ocean coastal town of Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Business Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The commission reportedly rejected objections to the project by a community-based organisation.

The decision by the ERC paves the way for Amu Power Company Limited, a consortium that includes Centum Investments, to be granted a power generation licence that had been withheld since last year pending a review of objections by Save Lamu Natural Justice.

The ERC ruled that the environmental, technical and economic issues raised by Save Lamu Natural Justice have been addressed.

“Taking the above reasons into account, the commission disallowed the objection,” according to an ERC gazette notice quoted by Business Daily. “The above decision is based on the objects and mandate of the commission envisaged under section 5 (a) and powers under section 6 (c) and (e).”

The regulator said the people affected by the project did not object to Amu Power Company being issued with a licence.

“Their only concern was a fair relocation and compensation which is being undertaken by the government in liaison with the project affected persons,” said the ERC in the notice.

On technical matters, the regulator said the plant’s location is “appropriate” and that it would supply the coastal region with sufficient electricity at lower prices. The ERC also ruled that concerns over livelihoods were “addressed in the environmental social impact assessment.”

The ERC said the project cost would be recovered through the tariff as contained in the power purchase agreement. Amu has a power purchase agreement with electricity distributor Kenya Power, which will buy electricity generated in the coal-fueled facility at 7.7 Kenyan shillings (7.52 US cents) per kilowatt hour. That price is 61.5 cheaper than the 20 shillings per kilowatt hour for electricity produced in diesel-fuled plants, according to Business Daily.

Save Lamu and other organisations had argued that the project will pollute Lamu’s air and water, among other negative outcomes. UNESCO, which lists Lamu’s Old Town as a World Heritage Site, has voiced concern over the plant’s impact on air quality and historic coral limestone buildings.

Lamu is one of Kenya’s oldest continually inhabited towns and one of the original Swahili settlements along the East African coast, founded in 1370, according to historical records.