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Stop the gravy train and usher in a new energy regime

OPINION
By Amos Wemanya | October 22nd 2021

Kenya Power live line team workers go for an assignment at Malaba border in Busia county on September 17, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Considering that Kenya is among the top seven most expensive power producers in Africa, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to the Energy Cabinet Secretary to implement recommendations of the task force to review power purchase agreements did not come as a surprise.

In fact, one wonders why it has taken this long for the government to realise Kenyans have been overburdened by high cost of electricity. 

The 2018 Kenya Power internal audit report exposed the rot in the entity that is a monopoly of electricity supply in Kenya.

Whenever interrogated on why they keep purchasing expensive power from independent producers, Kenya Power has always blamed it on persistent droughts. Kenya has abundant renewable energy options and dirty, polluting energy sources such as diesel should not be an option in the energy mix. In a country guided by the rule of law, the exploitation visited on Kenyan consumers is unacceptable and calls for reforms in the Kenyan energy sector. Reforms that will empower and enable consumer voices to be heard. 

There is need for a new energy regime that will dis-incentivise independent power producers and incentivise an energy system that will offer opportunities for investment and relief to consumers of the high power costs. 

Another challenge ailing the sector is energy forecasts. Many independent studies have established that per annum rate of growth in energy demand for Kenya is between six and eight percent. For years, these findings have contradicted the government’s estimation of seven to 11.5 per cent. However, the recent Low Cost Power Development Plan (LCPDP 2017-2037 report) projections has diverged significantly from the prior government reports with a more realistic outcome that Kenya does not need as much power as previously projected. Previous energy demand overestimates have guided investments in more energy projects than is necessary and it ends up being under-utilised and costly for consumers. 

A new energy regime based on research and new policy framework is urgently needed to save the consumer, our environment and our well-being. The new Kenyan energy model needs to be based on new and more accurate energy demand projections. The new model should be built on renewable energy technologies, while reducing capital costs associated with high power costs and boosting local employment opportunities.

The shift should reflect the spirit of decentralisation. This needs to be through more locally developed, decentralised, small-scale, rapidly deployable renewable energy projects rather than mega-scale projects that are likely to have greater environmental and social impacts. A model based on decentralised renewable energy projects will help Kenya achieve universal access to affordable electricity.  We need increased participation of civil society and communities in decision-making and creating transparency, including exposing vested interests. This can be achieved by fostering open debates on key issues like investments in the energy sector. It is time to call on to the political leadership to refine policies towards transition to a new energy regime. 

-The writer is Senior Energy Advisor at Power Shift Africa

 

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