A key strategy of the Shine Campaign is championing solutions that lift up the vision and values of energy access enterprises and leaders. This case study in effective community action comes from Shine partner American Jewish World Service and their grantee deCOALonize, which comprises 13 local, national and international organizations committed to keeping the coal industry out of Kenya.
In 2016, the Kenyan government approved a coal-fired power plant to be built in the tranquil coastal town of Lamu, awarding an operating license to Amu Power. Prior to the award process, the government had impeded the participation of affected communities in Lamu, and ignored legitimate concerns raised by community members about the negative impacts of the coal plant. Later that year, local grassroots coalition Save Lamu helped mobilize the national deCOALonize campaign to oppose the coal plant.
deCOALonize commissioned a rigorous economic study and used their findings to raise awareness across the Kenyan public about the dangers of coal, and the immense economic costs of the specific power plant. The campaign simultaneously engaged in advocacy with Kenyan government officials and would-be investors, encouraging them to end their support for coal and to instead invest in renewable energy solutions. deCOALonize filed a court case against the government alleging it had granted approval without adequately considering the community concerns regarding the harmful environmental and health impacts of the project. After more than two years of litigation, the court ruled in the campaign’s favor in June 2019. The coal plant has since been legally required to cease development, pending an appeal by Amu Power or a new environmental impact assessment for the project to be conducted.
The deCOALonize campaign demonstrates the power of mobilizing community action to fight looming energy and environmental threats. Rural and urban citizens alike understand the enormous negative impacts of coal and broadly support promoting cost-effective renewable energies. Communities have local knowledge and expertise that should be leveraged to inform the development of projects planned on their lands and territories, and governments would benefit from their input. An energy project that directly impacts a community but does not sufficiently involve them in the decision-making process will likely face obstacles in implementation. deCOALonize offers a model for successful community action that places power back in the hands of the people and unites voices that become impossible to ignore.
deCOALonize will be joining Shine at the Financing the Future Summit in Cape Town, South Africa on September 10-12, 2019. The Summit will bring together delegations from around the world for an interactive two-day program that showcases how the Divest Invest movement can and is accelerating the clean energy transition by mobilizing capital out of fossil fuels and into climate solutions.