KPLC rebrands; but more needs to be done.

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Yesterday Kenya Power and Lighting company re-branded to Kenya Power in what many brand experts believe is a long overdue effort to reinvent itself as a modern corporate. There is a joke going around that they removed the words lighting from their name so that they will not be held responsible for power blackouts.

KPLC by all means was much better run than most power companies in Africa (Including Eskom of South Africa) and this means that Kenya enjoys better power supply than many countries in Africa. in Nigeria for example, the local power company is a backup to the personal generators people own instead of the generators being the backup to the mains power.

One of the reasons why Kenyans enjoy a more stable power supply is because we also pay one of the highest tariffs in Africa. This has had the effect of making the country hostile to major manufacturing companies some of whom have shifted base to lower tariff countries such as Egypt and South Africa. Just to give you a glimpse of how high the tariffs are and how they can impact business, Bamburi cement pays over KES 90 Million in electricity bills per month. Mumias sugar even started generating its own electricity to subsidize what they buy from KPLC.

There has been a concerted campaign by stakeholders to reduce the cost of power in the country. One of they ways was to reduce the operating costs of KPLC by outsourcing most of its O&M services to third parties who are now responsible for grid extension and maintenance (if you have the prepaid meter in your house, it was installed by a third party non-KPLC employee)

They have also deployed prepaid metering which converted their negative cash flow into  positive and at the same time reduced the cost associated with manual post paid metered billing, these costs included postage of bills, fuel and salaries for the meter readers and their motorbikes roaming the country to read meters.

These are commendable efforts by KPLC (now Kenya power) to reduce operating costs and have a positive cash flow.

I however think that they should now embark on deploying a smart grid system and work on improving the efficiency of the Kenya transmission network.

In my university days, my lecturer in advanced electric power generation was also the immediate outgoing  director at KIRDI and he stated something very profound that KIRDI had researched on. he said that if KPLC could improve the efficiency of the Kenyan grid by just 1%, Kenya would save up to KES 7 billion annually on energy that goes to waste due to inefficient grid system. That is money you and me pay in our monthly bills.
The conversion f the grid into a smart grid could also significantly reduce wasted energy used in reactive load forecasting as the load put on the system would automatically adjust the generation capacities in real-time. Right now the load forecast systems are archaic and manual worked out on an excel sheet. The smart grid would:

  • Better facilitate the connection and operation of generators of all sizes and technologies hence allowing small scale generating companies and homes participate in the generation of electricity and feeding it into the national grid. If a solar panel in a house not using electricity during the day is on, it feeds the power into the national grid for use by other people around the country and the owner gets some money out of it instead of it going to waste;
  • It would allow consumers to play a part in optimizing the operation of the system;
  • Provide consumers with greater information and options for choice of supply e.g. rate of consumption;
  • Significantly reduce the environmental impact of the whole electricity supply system;
  • Maintain or even improve the existing high levels of system reliability, quality and security of supply;
  • Maintain and improve the existing services efficiently(c) Above points are from Wikipedia with my additions.

The smart grid would also be very versatile and like a TCP/IP network with very fast fault recovery times in case of a line break.

They new company should also either adopt air cooled transformers and replace the oil cooled ones which are prone to vandalism for the oil or de-gazette the trading and use of transformer oil which according to the laws of Kenya only KPLC can transact or use transformer oil. They can change this law and avail it in retail outlets and this will stop transformer vandalism. India is an example of a country that has deployed the air cooled transformers with success.


  1. You can’t compare electricity bills by using absolute numbers “how they can impact business, Bamburi cement pays over KES 90 Million in electricity bills per month” coz their operations are huge. I betcha Google spends much more ‘cooling’ their data centers & offices even in the USA but the scale is larger than Bamburi.

    Compare Apples to Apples.

    Kenya doesn’t have significant deposits of coal unlike SA. Egypt subsidizes its electricity plus they have had an unfair lock on the Nile’s waters (& drainage basin) which Kenya was barred from exploiting. So we have no choice but using thermal power coupled with crazy oil prices.

    The recent Rights Offer is helping fund better grids. And the goal is to lessen technical losses. The Smart Grid is easier said than done. Look at the illegal connections. It takes KPLC a lot of effort to disconnect the illegal connections. KPLC needs ARMED escorts into the slums (or even in Embakasi!) to clean it up. The last time it happened was when Michuki cracked down on the Mungiki in the various slums.

    The air-cooled transformers (or other options) are being installed but the sad bit is the Kenyans who are oblivious of the damage they cause by vandalizing transformers. Or they just don’t care.

    1. I agree with your comment on the Bamburi example given, I should have instead done a tariff conversion to show the difference in cost between the same KWh consumed in say SA or Egypt to the Kenyan one. Thanks.
      On the point on SA and Egypt having resources such as coal and the nile waters, I believe we have a better chance to offer cheaper electricity than them if we fully harnessed geothermal and improved the grid efficiency.

  2. Hi
    I agree with you on the fact that geothermal should be utilized well for base load in Kenya, if only the savings will trickle down to the consumer.

    My main concern is on Kenyan tarriffs and the smart grid. What factors are taken into account in the current tarrif? is it time we have the smart grid in place? its feasibility? any current data/information to substantiate this will be highly appreciated.

  3. Surely more is improvement is required. Am competent techncian on improving effectiveness. Any job vacant . 0721518676

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