Kenya Power needs a policy shift to ensure its survival

Kenya Power's remaining consumer base is the middle class in urban areas

In Summary

• The single biggest policy shift that Kenya Power can do to ensure its survival is to push for the adoption of electric vehicles in the country.

• More importantly, Kenya Power's largest customers who are at odds with them will become their suppliers, supplying there excess energy that they generate at a fee.

Kenya Power engineers carry out maintenance work at a power sub-station in Mombasa.
Kenya Power engineers carry out maintenance work at a power sub-station in Mombasa.
Image: FILE

It is no secret that Kenya Power is in trouble.

Slightly more than half of Kenya Power's revenue comes from just 3,600 customers, most of whom are switching to self-generation.

Examples are KTDA building small hydropower stations for its tea factories, the Gorge Farm Energy Park in Naivasha which produces 2 megawatts (MW) of electricity - more than enough to cultivate its 1,740 acres of vegetables and flowers, and with sufficient surplus to meet the power needs of 5,000-6,000 rural homes among many others.

It gets worse for KPLC. They invested in the Last Mile Project hoping to bring power to more than a million mostly rural Kenyan homes.

The aim was to bring electricity close to consumers then offer connection at a subsidized rate of 15,000.

This is far beyond the reach of most Kenyans.

At the same time this project was being implemented, other companies like M-Kopa, Azuri technologies and BBOXX came into the market with small solar systems which have been a big hit in the country.

M-Kopa alone to date has close to 700,000 customers in Kenya.

This has further reduced KPLC revenues and made their Last Mile Project an expensive white elephant project with seemingly no prospects for a return on investment.

Kenya Power's only remaining consumer base is the middle class in urban areas, who don’t have the resources to fully go off-grid, and a product to meet their needs has not been developed yet.

This needs to be their main focus for the next decade.

The single biggest policy shift that Kenya Power can do to ensure its survival is to push for the adoption of electric vehicles in the country.

A Nissan Leaf has a 40 kWh battery pack with an EPA-rated range of 243 km with a cost of charging of around Sh640 (at the current electricity tariffs) so this should be relatively easy sell to consumers.

In order to charge a basic Ev you would require a 2Kw system or roughly 10 panels rated at 220watts.

In urban areas where the density of cars is high and most dwellings are highrise, getting roof space to install large systems will be a challenge.

If an apartment complex has about thirty tenants each with at least one car on average they would require 60kw a day, which is about 300 panels.

Not to mention that by law solar water heaters have become a necessary part of any upcoming construction putting more pressure on available roof space for solar electric panels.

This leaves the only option to power our electric mobility as the grid.

The reason that Africa all of sudden got all this motor bikes was because China was switching to electric bikes.

Their effects have been felt in all corners of  the country.

From the Last Mile Project, Kenya Power has in essence laid the frame work knowingly or unknowingly for a transition to an electrified transport sector.

If even in our villages we can have E-bikes, like in Rwanda, then the Last Mile Project will have not been in vain.

The beauty of having such a scenario working is all of Kenya’s excess power( yes we currently produce more power than we need!) will find a use.

More importantly, Kenya Power's largest customers who are at odds with them will become their suppliers, supplying there excess energy that they generate at a fee.

Kenya Power will now be encouraging every single person with the capability to be a generator of electricity, in essence, more solar, more biogas, and more wind turbines.

We are on the verge of some very fundamental changes, like M-Pesa but the effect much more pronounced.

Let the policymakers do the right thing.

John Msingo is a Solar engineer at Dithub Engineering and moderator at African EV.

[email protected]