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Kenya Power to end outages for large consumers

By Macharia Kamau | Updated Mon, January 13th 2014 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Macharia Kamau

Kenya Power plans to overhaul its electricity distribution infrastructure. The move is aimed at cutting down on the number of unplanned blackouts.

The project will see the power utility firm invest Sh55 billion over the next three years. The move is aimed at strengthening its distribution system to reduce frequent unplanned power outages.

The company also plans to set up dedicated lines for large consumers.

The lines are expected to provide such consumers with uninterrupted power supply even in instances where there are planned power interruptions.

Kenya Power Chief Executive Ben Chumo said the power distribution firm planned to invest Sh55 billion ($637 million) in upgrading power stations and transmission lines to increase the stability of its electricity distribution network that is prone to frequent unplanned power outages.

Alternative lines

“We have revised the distribution master plan. The new plan entail projects that will strengthen the distribution network by having in place additional power lines and sub-stations that will be in place in three years,” he said at a briefing in Nairobi last week. “This is projected to cost $637 million. We are also in plans to give large consumers dedicated lines to their premises to ensure they are not unnecessarily interrupted even when we are repairing other lines that service them.”

He observed that the plan will also involve overhauling the current power distribution network that has been in place for years and is worn out — resulting in unplanned power outages. “The existing distribution network requires a lot of strengthening,” said Chumo.

“We have assigned a team to assess the network and establish what needs to be done. We will upgrade the lines as well as the poles and preferably use concrete poles that reduce our operation and maintenance cost.”

The firm expects a study being conducted by the Energy Regulation Commission (ERC) to establish the true cost of connecting new users to the electricity grid to be concluded in two months.

Chumo said the firm expected to start applying new rates in another two months.

Kenya Power had proposed a hike in connection rates from Sh35,000 for a single phase and Sh45,000 for a three-phase line to Sh70,000 and Sh85,000 respectively.

The firm had argued the rates were last reviewed close to ten years ago while connection costs had significantly gone up.

The new rates were however met with public outcry and the Government was forced to step in.

Treasury gave the firm Sh2.7 billion to enable the firm connect new users using older lower rates over a three month period while ERC undertook a study that would establish what should be a fair value for both the electricity distributor as well as its customers.

The study is almost complete and we have almost used up the money… we expect a new cost that we will effect accordingly. It should be ready in the next two months,” said Chumo.