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Why national blackout would soon be a thing of the past

By Kelvin Kinyosi | August 7th 2016

The Saturday morning disappointment consequent of a national power outage must have thrown a lot into jeopardy, half of the day’s economy was lost. Small traders lost revenue that if summed up amounts to millions of shillings. The toddlers missed out on their favorite batman and spider man animations, battery low problems, the showers compounded with the chilly weather were unbearable, literally everything went static. To a young engineer like myself I was reminded of my higher calling and how so important my profession is to this economy.

I am not trying to hold brief for Kenya power as to the cause of the unfortunate Saturday incident but there are apparent facts that someone of my profession and level of interest can easily infer. Over time the agenda by government has been to attain universal power supply to each home and village. This first means our infrastructure network is soaring. Secondly, it means that today’s grid system is getting more complex than ever before. Automation of grid system monitoring has been greatly deployed but automation equipment is not exempted from failure. At some point contractors were getting away with shoddy built lines another complexity, though lately the state power giant has reigned in and given strong instructions to these pseudo contractors. Our grid system is also aging which is an indictment when it comes to the question of reliability of our grid system. Infrastructural development such as the ring roads and SGR are massively displacing the grid. In a nutshell, our grid system is on an ever dynamic trajectory.

Investment in the energy industry is on the rise. More but smaller power companies have emerged. Through these independent power producers the most awaited liberalization of the power sector through disintegration of the national grid in the form of off-grid systems is slowly taking shape. Power Africa an initiative launched by President Obama, has seen millions of dollars being invested via small energy companies in Africa and particularly Kenya that have been tasked with developing stand-alone power stations and consequent distribution of the power generated to the local communities. This is an apparent killer to the grid system nationhood, good news indeed.

The interconnection of the grid system is not a matter of wish or preference; it is subjective crowded in technical and economic strains. If you can recall, in the recent past as a nation we were heavily dependent on the unreliable hydropower that made power rationing a household term. With an interconnected system in the name of a national grid, a power glut in Kisumu that coincident with a deficit in Mombasa can be used to cure the power inadequacies at the coastal town and vice-versa. This is to ensure that the economics of power are at optimum and that key installations that can’t afford a power outage are safeguarded. This in power sector corridors is elaborately articulated under power systems analysis. All said and done beyond the optimal point of operation bad economics sets in and this justifies the need for disintegration of the national grid system.

In the near future, power outages shall be non-existent given the ‘devolution’ efforts of the national grid, the integration in to law by parliament of the requirement to compensate economic losses suffered by consumers as a result blackouts and the modernization techniques being deployed by the state power agent not to forget the new live power line maintenance technique that shall be going live soon. Independent Power Producers can’t afford to lose even a second of power generation given that they are basically in business. With the emergence of such competitiveness we are poised for ‘eternal’ power supply. In summary the future portends a more secure and reliable power supply with near zero power interruptions. 

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