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Latest blackout puts Kenya Power in the spotlight

Posted on 10th Jan 2018 21:05:09 in

A section of Nakuru town covered in darkness after a major power outage that gripped most parts of the country on Tuesday. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

A countrywide power blackout on Tuesday has rekindled debate on whether Kenya Power should compensate electricity consumers for losses incurred during outages.

The outage, which started on Tuesday afternoon and lasted well into the night, made many Kenyans turn to alternative sources of energy, with industries incurring the biggest cost from using diesel-powered generators.

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter said yesterday the outage was caused by a damaged insulator on a transmission line between Nairobi North power station and the Dandora station. He said the fault had been rectified and all parts of the country experiencing the blackout had power by early Wednesday. The CS, together with other energy industry officials, toured the Dandora station.

Manufacturers under the aegis of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) were, however, left counting losses. They said such frequent interruptions in electricity supply were costly and had the net effect of pushing up production costs, which were in the long run transferred to consumers.

“Yesterday’s (Tuesday’s) blackout resulted in over seven hours of power outage and subsequently, power instability once power was restored, forcing manufacturers to either shut down or turn to diesel generators,” said KAM Chief Executive Phyllis Wakiaga.

“For instance, in the cement industry, every one hour of power outage costs an additional Sh1 million to normalise production,” The outage, which went unexplained for hours, came against the backdrop of a raging debate on whether other power distributors should be licensed to compete with Kenya Power and if consumers should be compensated in the event of such unplanned occurrences. Both issues were contained in the Energy Bill that was expected to repeal the Energy Act of 2006. This also came despite major investments that Kenya Power claims to have made on its network to enable it to detect and fix problems early enough to avoid prolonged outages. The firm invested Sh40 billion in infrastructure last year, part of which was to enhance its network.

This, Kenya Power said, resulted in a 28 per cent reduction in the average number of outages per month from a high of 27,274 to 19,588 recorded over the 2016/17 financial year. See Also: Kenyans' funny reactions to the power blackout