By John Njiraini
Kenya has activated a power-rationing programme that might hurt industry and small service providers already battered by high energy and commodity prices.
Power generator KenGen and independent power producers are not supplying enough electricity to make up for cuts caused by breakdowns and regular maintenance.
National power distributor Kenya Power says high electricity demand forced it to implement power rationing programme in the country. Photo: File/Standard
Those likely to see their trade income cut include manufacturers, owners of cybercafÈs, small retailers, barbershops and salons.
Kenyans are also praying that the water levels in the dams do not drop further as this would make the situation worse.
While domestic consumers have largely been spared — and the scale of the cuts is nowhere near as bad as in neighbouring Tanzania — things could get worse if power supply does not return to normal in coming weeks.
The worst period of power rationing in Kenya was in 1999-2001. However, The Standard recalls that in August 2009, President Kibaki gave a keynote speech on boosting local exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), but his goals were thwarted after an electricity rationing programme was announced soon afterwards that consigned his promises to the dustbin.
National power distributor Kenya Power now says it has been forced to implement a "Power Supply Management Programme", or rationing in simpler language, because electricity demand is fast outstripping supply.
According to an advertisement in yesterday’s daily papers, Kenya Power also says a promised supply of "26 MW from Mumias Sugar Company’s co-generation plant" has not been forthcoming. This has created a deficit of 90 MW (mega watts).
The evening cuts are a major blow to Kenya’s much touted 24-hour economy, as they will affect industries, retailers and small and medium-sized enterprises that operate between 6.30pm and 9.30pm.
But Kenya Power has said it will do its best to protect key emergency service providers like hospitals from the rationing.
Reaction to the planned cuts by manufacturers was swift.
"This is an unfortunate move that will increase production costs and we might be forced to pass them on to the consumers," said Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) chairman Jaswinder Bedi.
The move ultimately adds to the many miseries already distressing Kenyans like runaway prices of basic commodities, rising prices of fuel, high inflation, weakening shilling and a harsh drought that is threatening the lives of four million people in Northern Kenya.
The power supply management programme will mainly affect Nairobi and the Western part of the country and is bound to be severe in industrial areas.
"Due to power generation shortfalls that have been experienced in the recent past, there has been insufficient power generation reserve margin to meet the ever rising national power demand," said Kenya Power Managing Director Eng Joseph Njoroge.
He added the shortfall has made it impossible for the power distributor to meet demand during the evening peak period in various parts of the country.