Coal-fired power plant will choke Kenya - Daily Nation
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Coal-fired power plant will choke Kenya


Coal-fired power plant will choke Kenya

Lamu plant will be the worst greenhouse gases emitter

The strongest argument against coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, is an environmental one, a NationNewsplex review of pollution data shows.

The planned Lamu coal-power plant would exceed all of Kenya’s existing emissions from fossil fuel plants and would be one of the worst emitters of greenhouse gases in African, according to BankTrack, an organisation that targets private sector commercial banks and the activities they finance.

Electricity generation is responsible for nearly half of global CO2 emissions. Of this, about three-quarters (73 per cent) can be attributed to coal-fired power plants, which emit between 675 and 1,689 grams of CO2 for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they generate, compared with between 290 and 930 grams for gas-fired power plants, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meta-study on renewable energies. This means that coal plants emit double the amount of CO2 that gas plants do.

Similarly, a solar PV system "emits" between five and 217 grams of CO2 (depending on where the solar panels were manufactured) for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated while a solar CSP system emits between seven and 89 grams. CO2 emission from the least efficient solar plant is seven times lower than the least efficient coal plant.

The planned Lamu coal-power plant would exceed all of Kenya’s existing emissions from fossil fuel plants and would be one of the worst emitters of greenhouse gases in African, according to BankTrack, an organisation that targets private sector commercial banks and the activities they finance.

Geothermal, wind and hydro are the greenest energies. A geothermal plant emits between six and 79 grams, a wind turbine between two and 81 grams, and a hydropower plant 0-43 grams.

25 worst

According to the Carbon Monitoring for Action (CARMA) database, the 25 worst CO2 polluting power plants globally all burn coal. These plants are responsible for over 636 million metric tonnes of CO2 emissions, the equivalent to South Korea’s yearly fossil fuel-related CO2 emissions. South Korea is the ninth largest emitter of CO2 in the world. Kenya ranks 92 out of 207 countries.

Besides speeding up global warming by filling the atmosphere with vast amounts of carbon dioxide, coal burning leads to acid rain and smog, and emits more than 60 different hazardous air pollutants such as a variety of toxic metals, organic compounds, acid gases, sulphur, nitrogen, and particulate matter.

Coal is the single biggest source of sulphur and mercury emissions caused by power generation. Greenpeace reports that, in 2004, 95 per cent of the 10.3 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide (SO2), and 90 per cent of the 3.9 million tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOx) released into the atmosphere by US power plants came from ones fuelled by coal.

Burning coal releases large amounts of the neurotoxin mercury into the air. Globally, coal-fired power plants are the single largest emitters of mercury, accounting for over 50 per cent of the mercury pollution caused by humans.

Greenpeace reports that once released, mercury settles in streams, lakes and rivers and on the earth itself, where it infiltrates the groundwater and entering the food chain via algae. This infects all organisms whose diets include fish. As it goes up the food chain, the concentration of mercury intensifies. Mercury is especially damaging to foetuses, infants and young children because it affects the development of their nervous system. Exposure to mercury can cause brain damage, mental retardation, blindness, seizures and the inability to speak.

Coal-burning power plants release fine particles of sulphate, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon and mineral dust, smaller than the width of a human hair, that penetrate deep into the lungs. Breathing these fine particles can decrease lung function, aggravate asthma and contribute to cardiovascular diseases cause thousands of premature deaths. As the particles are so small, they are more likely to escape the cleaning mechanisms of coal power stations.

World Bank figures show that one in 10 deaths annually is attributable to air pollution and the cost of the premature deaths to the global economy in terms of forgone labour income each year is Sh22.8 trillion.
Every year, in the US alone, fine particle emissions, particularly sulphur dioxide, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, from power plants are believed to cut short the lives of 13,000 people, as well as causing almost 10,000 hospitalisations and more than 20,000 heart attacks, according to a study by the US Clean Air Task Force.

A 2007 World Bank and China’s State Environmental Protection Administration study found that outdoor air pollution was already causing 350,000 to 400,000 premature deaths a year in China.