State lags behind electricity targets, but connection increases

Number of customers connected under Rural Electrification Programme grew to 1.9 million in 2020/21.

In Summary

•Total number of customers connected to electricity in Kenya now above 8,278,203.

•More than 25% of Kenyans however yet to be connected. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta switches on power at a home in Kikuyu constituency which was connected under the last mile project/
President Uhuru Kenyatta switches on power at a home in Kikuyu constituency which was connected under the last mile project/
Image: FILE

The number of customers connected to the national grid under the Rural Electrification Programme grew from 1.5 million in 2019/20 to 1.9 million in 2020/21, official government data shows.

This pushed the total number of customers connected to electricity in Kenya to above 8,278,203 that had been recorded as at the end of June 2021, as the government continued to drive its universal connectivity.

However as President Uhuru Kenyatta starts packing ahead of his expected exit from office in August, after serving the constitutional two five-year terms, the government is still short of its universal access to electricity target which it had set for the year 2020 before adjusting to 2022.

With a total population of 47.5 million;  households– 12.2 million ( Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2019 census), a sizable number of Kenyans mainly in the rural parts of the country are yet to get connected, with the government's Last Mile Connectivity project facing a number of challenges among them procurement hitches.

According to KNBS data, although there are more electricity users in the rural areas at 7.3 million than the urban setting, where only 4.6 million are using electricity for lighting, the penetration rate is still lowest upcountry, with only 26 per cent connected compared to 88.4 per cent in the urban setting.

The country has an access rate of 75 per cent with half of the population in Kenya using electricity as a source of lighting.Data from KNBS indicates 12.04 million households or 50.4 per cent of the population light their homes with electricity.

Use of electricity in urban areas as the source of lighting is at 42 per cent; although kerosene lamps still remain the main source of lighting for 55 per cent of households.

Kerosene for lighting in rural households is at 87 per cent.

Experts and social justice leaders have pointed out ability to afford the connection fee, high electricity bills and the cost of wiring home among the main challenges.

Connection fee is at Sh34,980 for single-phase and three-phase, and Sh49,080.

“When you get distribution up to 500 meters or 250 metres to your home, that is still expensive to bring power to the house. Electicity is also still unaffordable in the country due to a number of factors including the expensive IPPs (Independent Power Producers) contracts,” Energy activist Jerotich Seii told the Star yesterday.

Kenya however has the highest electricity access rate in East Africa according to the World Bank, with total access at 75 per cent both from grid and off-grid solutions.

While universal connectivity is yet to be achieved as per target, the number of households connected to electricity increase from 2.3 million households (12.8 million Kenyans) in 2013 to 6.2 million households (34.1 million Kenyans) during Uhuru’s first term.

This was a 170 per cent increase that has seen an additional 21.3 million Kenyans benefit from electricity access in just over four years compared to 12.8 million Kenyans over the previous 50 years.

“But there are a quarter of Kenyans still lack access to electricity,” World Bank notes in its recent according to the recent Multi-Tier Framework Energy Access Survey Report, “Universal access to electricity is a key requirement for meeting Kenya’s development goals under Vision 2030.”

The costly power bills have been pushing poor households mainly in slums to illegal connections.According to Kenya Power, there has been a rise in illegal connections, meter bypasses and faulty meters among others, which have contributed to increase in system losses.

“Notably, it is estimated that the Company loses about 80 per cent of expected revenue due to illegal connections in the informal settlements of Mathare, Mukuru and Kibera,” Kenya Power says its latest financial report.

Illegal electricity connections cause overloads on transformers which compromise the quality and reliability of power supply to legally connected customers, while posing safety concerns.

GOGLA, the global association for the off-grid solar energy industry had in 2019 warned the universal connectivity will not be achieved unless focus is given to off-grid.

This is due poor main grid electricity transmission network in rural areas, mainly Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), which remain potential areas for off-grid solar and mini-grid investments. 

“If we are talking about only grid extension, it won't happen," GOGLA East Africa regional representative, Patrick Tonui, had said.

Meanwhile, total installed capacity of electricity increased by 5.4 per cent to 2,989.6 MW in 2021, the Economic Survey 2022 indicates, while total effective capacity rose by 5.6 per cent to 2,857.6 MW in the same period.

Similarly, total electricity generation rose by seven per cent to 12,414.7 GWh in 2021, with 89.6 per cent of electricity generated from renewable sources.

Domestic demand increased from 8,796.4 GWh in 2020 to 9,565.4 GWh in 2021.

Thermal and wind generation increased by 58.3 per cent and 49.1 per cent to stand at 1,194.3 GWh and 1,948.8 GWh, respectively in the review period.

However, electricity generated from hydro declined by 13.2 per cent to 3,675.0 GWh due to insufficient rains during the review period.

Similarly, electricity generated from geothermal declined by 22.73 GWh to stand at 5,037 GWh in 2021.

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