Energy is crucial for the socio-economic development and modernization of a society, and apart from the beneficial aspect of energy it is also a major source of environmental degradation. This occurs during its extraction, transportation, conversion or when being used. In Kenya energy sources consist of fossil fuels which include coal, oil and natural gas and renewable sources which include biomass, hydro, geothermal, solar and wind. Fossil fuels are considered to be much cheaper compared to solar and wind and hence has more extensive use.
In Kenya, coal deposits Kwale, Taita Taveta and Kilifi counties are currently undergoing exploration. In 2014 a coal power plant was set up in Lamu which is expected to produce 981.5MW of electricity and operate under a 25 year contract. Coal deposits occur in forms; anthracite coal in which 1tonne has a heat value of 289J and soft coal in which 1 tonne has a heat value of 149J. This is the reason coal is attractive in terms of energy production and it is also cheap compared to other energy sources. However, burning coal produces:
Solid waste products like fly ash which are particulates and bottom ash from furnaces. Ash contains heavy metals like lead which affects human health.
Coal produces more carbon dioxide than oil and natural gas; burning 1tonne of coal releases 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting in global warming and climate change.
Burning coal also produces oxides of sulfur and nitrogen responsible for acid deposition/acid rain, which is destructive to vegetation and buildings, causes irritation to the respiratory system and pollution of water.
Mining and extraction of coal results in land degradation and destruction, and hence displacement of local people and also loss of arable land.
It consists of 50-70% methane gas and has small quantities of other natural hydrocarbons like propane and butane. Natural gas however, burns clean and produces low amounts of carbon dioxide gas.it has a high heat value and it is low priced, but if it leaks into the atmosphere especially during transportation it causes environmental harm since methane is a greenhouse gas which causes global warming.
Oil and Petroleum
Kenya imports petroleum and also oil deposits were recently discovered in Turkana region. Oil is a cleaner fuel than coal, but it still has environmental effects.
Refining petroleum or transforming crude oil into petroleum causes release of harmful chemicals which causes air pollution and ecosystem damage. Apart from the emission of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrogen sulphide gases are introduced into the atmosphere in quantities which depend on the nitrogen and sulphur content in the oil. In production, the major waste produced is water containing inorganic salts, heavy metals, solids, production chemicals, and hydrocarbons.
Burning releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere further contributing to global warming and climate change.
In addition during drilling and sometimes transportation, oil spills occur which negatively affects the ecosystem.
There are also potential impacts on soils arise from physical disturbances due to construction, deforestation and contamination, resulting from spillage and leakage or solid waste disposal. These activities result in land degradation, transformation and fragmentation of natural habitats, and can disable the vital ecosystem processes that support growth.
The negative effects due to use of fossil fuels outweigh the positive and it is much more expensive to deal with and remedy these effects. Therefore, it is time to break free from use of fossil fuels.