A history of under-investment in power distribution infrastructure is the reason Kenyans pay high electricity bills.
Consumers pay more for power due to inefficiencies in the supply chain, according to the Energy ministry.
Line Cabinet Secretary Energy Charles Keter singled out western Kenya, which relies on expensive thermal generators and import power from Uganda -due to a dilapidated power line that cannot evacuate cheap power from Olkaria geothermal fields.
This state of affairs, he reckoned, had left consumers from the rest of the country to bankroll supplies to the region and other remote northern Kenya markets.
The high cost of power consumed in these regions is distributed to all power consumers, playing part in eroding gains on efforts to bring down the cost of energy, including increased generation from cost-effective power sources.
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Keter said the 132 kilovolt line, Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu, is in no shape to transmit electricity from cheap power sources. Its replacement, a 400KV line, has been faced by delays owing to lack of funds.
This has left the power authorities with no options but to operate thermal plants and recently installed a 30MW generator at Muhoroni, increasing the capacity to 60MW.
It also has to import expensively from Uganda, with Kenya paying Sh22 per kilowatt hour of electricity from the neighbouring country, levels similar to those charged by thermal power plants.
“We import power from Uganda and run thermal plants for Western Kenya due to lack of transmission lines to take power to the region. We never invested in transmission lines as a country for a very long time. The transmission line from Suswa to Kisumu was built 50 years ago. This has resulted in the system being constrained,” explained Keter.
He added that the high cost of running thermal plants at the regional level is passed to all consumers across the country.
“We do not have a tariff for one region because that would be expensive. The cost of running all the thermal generators are heaped and distributed among all the consumers,” he said.
He added that Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu line would be ready by March. The line, which is funded by the Government, has stalled following failure by Treasury to allocate funds.
“So far, we have completed 80 per cent of the transmission line. We will complete it by March. Once we are done, we will not be buying power Uganda and we will buy less from the thermal plants,” said Keter.
“We have had challenges with funding as Treasury did not allocate any money this financial year, but expect to get funds to complete the line in the supplementary budget. When this is done, the share of thermal to the mix will come down to under 10 per cent.”
Keter spoke on Wednesday during a session with the Senate Committee on Energy. Session chair Mary Senata took the CS to task on why Kenya imports power from Uganda.