June 26, 2019 / 3:19 PM / 24 days ago

Kenya environmental tribunal suspends coal plant licence, allows fresh study

NAIROBI, June 26 (Reuters) - A Kenyan environmental tribunal delayed a licence for a planned coal power plant in the coastal Lamu region on Wednesday, saying the builders must submit a fresh environmental study because they had failed to consult residents.

Construction of the plant on the Kenyan mainland opposite the tourist island of Lamu was scheduled to begin in 2015 but has been repeatedly halted, due in part to opposition by environmentalists.

In mid June, a U.S. think-tank said the electricity from the power plant, due to be built by a Kenyan-Chinese consortium, will cost consumers up to 10 times more than planned.

The tribunal chairman Mohamed Balala said that the environmental and social impact assessment study submitted by the plant’s consortium to the regulator National Environmental Management (NEMA) had failed to consult Lamu residents as required by law and a fresh assessment was necessary.

Environmentalists say the plant will pollute the air, destroying mangroves and breeding grounds for five endangered species of marine turtles, fish and other marine life.

The plant’s backers say it would help tackle Kenya’s frequent blackouts by increasing generation capacity by nearly a third and generating power that would cost about half what consumers currently pay.

Last week, the energy minister said Kenya had cut its target for expanding its electricity output by 2030 by nearly 30% as demand is growing more slowly than expected.

The country now plans to add 7,200 MW of installed electricity capacity to its grid by 2030, down from an original target of 10,000 MW, Energy Minister Charles Keter said.

The coal plant’s location on the mainland in the coastal Lamu County region is about 14 km from Lamu island, a famous ancient Swahili settlement and UNESCO World heritage site and a top tourist destination. (Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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