THE EXPENSIVE POWER : A story of Kenya’s high electricity prices

It is an open secret that the prices of power in kenya are undeniably high , compared to other countries within the Sub Saharan Africa which have a similar generation capacity. However , the general public has been made to accept this dubious pricing , mainly because of lack of knowledge in this complicated field of power energy .

Probably , I could have been like the general public too , but I’m so glad I am not. Hurray!! After graduating from high school , I realized that there was a long period of boredom ahead , during my gap year and in order to dodge this boredom , I sourced for an Internship Mentorship , and to my luck ,I landed an energy firm ,Elcy Investments , founded by a stellar and high achieving proprietor , who is passionate about energy . It is while at Elcy that I learnt so much about energy , ranging from LNG accros the board to power energy and I don’t consider this as a mean feat.

It was during my internship that I learnt about the herrenious power prices in the power energy of our country .After a few months of study , I decided to put down my thoughts in this entire subject. Before we delve in the entire thing ,let’s first have a look at the organization of the power chain

Towards the end of the 90s , due to pressure from the donors , the energy sector was “liberalized ” giving a rise to some sort of separation of powers . The generation of power was put on the hands of KenGen , which would then hand the power to the national grid under KETRACO ( though this was formed much later in 2008), and finally the power would be handed to KPLC ,later Kenya Power , for maintainance of the local grid and distribution of power to the final consumers .

As it stands now , Kenya has a generation capacity of 2,351 Meggawats , majorly from hydro , geothermal and thermal sources . About 3 million households are connected to the national grid power , and according to this statistics , power should be favourably affordable , but that’s not the case for the Kenyan market , so then what is the issue. As of December 2019 , the power price at Nairobi , Kenya’s commercial capital was 0.219 US$ per Killowatt per hour ,while the situation in Johannesburg was completely different. In South Africa’s commercial capital , power costs 0.084 US$ per Killowatt per hour . Kenya has almost similar generation patterns as that of SA.

This sharp contrast made me study further the power chain in our country . Annually , the taxpayers pay Billions of Shillings to KenGen to have it generate power ( KenGen is the most funded parastatal ) , once the power is generated , it is handed to KETRACO which is fully owned by the government hence full funding ,and the finally Kenya Power ,which enjoys extreme Monopoly alongside the government’s funding. With all this funding , one expects power to be cheap to the consumers as the initial cost is almost entirely footed by the taxpayers already !

This prompted me to carry out another study , the possible reasons for this high prices ,and one reason was constant in my findings ; inadequate oversight and regulation. The Energy Act of 2019 introduced a new regulator , EPRA , which has existed for almost a year now but with nothing much to show on regulation of electricity. Often than not , you have seen members of the electricity body in court over corruption allegation charges , and even more recently , almost an entire board at Kenya Power was shown the door , begging for more question than answers. It is very evident that the power body requires a complete overhaul , and this is the only way that sanity Will be brought back to the giant monopolist

Effects of the high pricing are already being felt . The big 4 agenda which depended on electricity has been blown out completely , with the government that introduced it almost leaving power .The Vision 2030 , which is just a decade away is still at large a mirage . SMEs that require electricity are already scrambling and the more the prices stay the same , the darker it is for the Kenya’s industries.

However there is light at the end of the tunnel , fortunes can be changed . Apart from the overhaul that is urgently required at Electricity House , much more can be done out of the authorities by giving a more comprehensive approach and embracing diversification of power . At the moment , most people take prestige to be connected to the national grid , but in reality it is not any prestigious , in fact it’s only manipulative . In developed countries , local communities have done away with national grids and left them for the big industries as they start their own localized grids ,and this is possible here too.

Look at solar energy ,apart from being clean and efficient , it’s extremely affordable and the output is great . Kenya enjoys the maximum 12 hours of sunlight due to its position within the tropics , equating to a great natural resource. A common solar panel array is usually around 5 killowats and takes around 400 ft ². An array of this kind can produce between 400 – 850 killowats per hour of AC energy per month . A typical household with everything running requires 600 killowats per hour to run , and this makes solar energy the best option for localized and cheaper , efficient electricity.

This new approach will go along way to save industries , households and businesses from the unrealistic charges from Kenya Power .

Hope you enjoyed the read !

Lincoln Oyugi

By Lincoln Oyugi

Just as Isaac Newton died a virgin, I'll die a writer!

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