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KPLC’s stressed power system gets Sh12b boost

By | Published Tue, November 24th 2009 at 00:00, Updated Tue, November 24th 2009 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Jackson Okoth

Consumers of electricity could soon experience reliable supply once utility firm Kenya Power and Lighting Company Ltd (KPLC) completes upgrading its obsolete and overstretched distribution system. At present, customers in heavily built up areas have been experiencing power outages as the system struggles to cope with growing demand.

With peak demand now at 1089 MW, KPLC is also faced with increasing system losses, as the proportion of electricity lost in the process of transmission and distribution goes up. Currently, the company loses an estimated 16.9 per cent of electricity generated through its transmission lines. In the past, KPLC lost almost 20 per cent of electricity through its infrastructure.

KPLC Managing Director Joseph Njoroge with Norwegian ambassador to Kenya, Heli Sirve, (right) and ABB OY Project Manager Olli Tervo during the commissioning of Westlands power sub-station, last week. Photo: File

While the company aims to cut the loss to 15 per cent, the degree of depends on the distance between consumers and the generating plants.

"All electricity distribution systems anywhere in the world experience technical losses, due to the intrinsic characteristics of conductors used to transmit and distribute power," Mr Joseph Njoroge, managing director, KPLC told Financial Journal.

Upgrade system

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KPLC has already invested Sh1.2 billion from internally generated funds to upgrade distribution lines and other equipment. The work involves replacing old conductors, changing poles, establishing new lines, and installing additional transformers on the distribution network.

Upgrading KPLC lines and equipment is part of an ambitious $153 million (Sh12.2 billion) countrywide Energy Sector Recovery Project (ERSP), which begun two years ago. The programme aims to upgrade the country’s electricity supply distribution system to enable it cope with growing demand.

Already, the company has put up two sub-stations in Westlands and Ngong road, in addition to upgrading existing Karen and Nairobi South substations, all at a cost of Sh988 million.

"The installation of these new facilities has reduced the length of our distribution lines, and consequently reduced number of line breakdowns and poor voltages previously experienced," said Eng Njoroge.

A fast growing property market in and around Westlands, Ngong road and Upper Hill areas of Nairobi has put a strain on KPLC’s obsolete distribution system, leading to unreliable supply.

"The Ngong road substation will accommodate increasing demand for power supply to the fast developing Upper Hill corporate capital, and many parts of Kilimani and Ngong road," said Njoroge. Other areas experiencing rapid growth include Lavington, Langata, Kiambu road, Komarock and Ruai, where single occupier residential premises are being replaced with high rise office blocks, apartments and hyper markets.

Enhanced capacity

Moreover, modern apartments, office blocks and shopping malls are coming up along Waiyaki Way, putting a strain on KPLC’s distribution system.

"In Nairobi South and Karen, KPLC has replaced obsolete and unreliable equipment with those of higher rating, which has greatly enhanced their capacity to serve more customers ," said Njoroge.

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