Naivasha traders call on state intervention following months of blackouts

Electrical lineworkers and powerline technicians doing maintenance work. Naivasha traders say months of blackouts have left them counting great losses. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Naivasha residents have petitioned Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir and Kenya Power CEO Dr Joseph Siror to address frequent power blackouts in the area.

The residents said the blackouts have not only posed a security risk but also cost them millions of shillings in lost business and damage to properties every month.

In the petition seen, by The Standard, the residents said they have experienced incessant blackouts for the last three months plunging Nyondia, Good Faith and Kwa Makara in Karati in total darkness for long hours.

The areas are not among those the utility power company has listed for scheduled maintenance during the period.

The most affected have been hotels, cyber cafes, welding shops, hair salons and barber shops as well as homes.

“I have lost business to a point I am contemplating shutting down. You can imagine the embarrassment when a client goes back home half-shaved never to return,” a barber, lamented.

The residents spoke to The Standard after a blackout on Wednesday, the latest of many – lasting more than 12 hours – led to huge losses as businesses were disrupted.

Distraught business owners said in an interview with The Standard, they have resorted to expensive diesel-powered generators to guard against mounting losses.

Homesteads, restaurants and entertainment spots said that most of their stored food went bad after their refrigerators went off.

The residents say several appeals to Kenya Power’s Naivasha office have not borne fruits. The Standard could not immediately reach the Naivasha Kenya Power office for comment by press time.

“We are in distress. Despite the high cost of living, we are forced to throw food from the fridge when it goes bad due to lack of power. Our complaints every week when blackouts hit to the Kenya Power teams fall on deaf years,” another resident told The Standard.

Over 200 homes and businesses in the three areas are affected, a Standard spot check shows.

Asante Children’s Centre which does not have a backup generator, is also among the establishments affected by the perennial outages putting at risk the lives of children at the home.

The desolate Naivasha residents are now asking the Energy CS Chirchir and the Kenya Power boss Siror to step in and resolve the power outage failure to which they will hold a massive demonstration in Naivasha town against the company.

According to the residents, whenever there are blackouts, they lose expensive equipment and property such as TV sets, music systems and fridges due to power surges when electricity returns only to go away moments later.

“Some of us are farmers and our refrigerated produce go bad whenever the blackouts are not addressed,” a resident said.

The residents say the current situation reminds them of a similar experience about 10 years ago when frequent power blackouts adversely affected businesses.

At the time, Kenya Power attributed the problem to a hitch at the main Suswa power station, which supplies electricity to Naivasha town and its environs.

Kenya Power is Kenya’s sole electricity distributor and the bulk of its power comes from Naivasha-based Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), which is the main producer.

Frequent blackouts due to supply shortfalls and aging infrastructure have forced most businesses and wealthy customers in the area to have standby generators as well as install solar power plants.

Kenya Power, which is struggling with poor performance and mounting debt, has been under pressure from Kenyan manufacturers and businesses to supply reliable and affordable power to businesses.

The government previously rejected proposed laws that require Kenya Power to compensate businesses whose power is cut off for more than three hours within a day.

Business leaders say incessant blackouts are limiting economic growth. 

Manufacturers, commercial building owners, warehouses, hospitality establishments like hotels, supermarkets, hospitals, educational institutions, farmers, and other small businesses like salons and barber shops need constant electricity supply and an extended outage usually translates into losses and additional expenses from using generators.

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