The African Finance Corporation has contributed KES 2.3 billion shillings (US$25m) towards Kenya Lighting Co (KPLC) plans of upgrading its electricity distribution infrastructure. The upgrades which are expected to cost around KES 13 billion (US$150m) will increase the current country’s generation by 5,000MW by 2017. In effect Kenya’s generation capacity will improve by 300 percent, from 1,652 MW to 6,652MW. KPLC’s grand plan involves establishing new power lines, upgrading power stations, creating additional transformation and distribution capacity, constructing new substations as well as creating dedicated lines to industrial customers.
The project to ensure reduction in power outages has already kicked off in Nairobi’s industrial areas and extended to other major towns including Mombasa and Thika.
Problems relating to ineffective electric power transmission have long been felt in Kenya, constantly disrupting the lives of Kenyans. Only 20% of Kenyans have access to electricity with a per capita consumption of 130kWh, while in the outskirts of Kenya the number plunges even further to 7 to 8%. The unreliability of power affects different operations, from businesses to educational institutions.
A report titled Poor People’s Energy Outlook 2013 noted that reliability of power in Kenya was similar to that of Uganda despite the fact that power production in Uganda is only a third of Kenya’s. The report went on further to state that electricity in Kenyan healthcare facilities was lower than in Tanzania and Rwanda, despite the fact that Kenya is the largest power producing country in East Africa. In addition, Kenya ranked below Rwanda in terms of schools with access to electricity with 20 percent while in Rwanda it was 40 percent and even higher up Mauritius with about 100 percent accessibility.
Despite the diversification into geothermal power, which led to a drop in power prices, power supply in Kenya remains quite erratic. This does not only affect lifestyle but turns Kenya into an unattractive place for business and investment. On several occasions, Kenya has lost out businesses to South Africa and Egypt, because of issues of electricity.
As part of the plan to improve and modernize electricity transmission, Kenya power plans on constructing 36 new substations around the country. The Coast Region stands to benefit the most as 10 out of the 36 substation will be constructed in that area. The estimated cost of setting up the ten new substations in Coast Region is around KES 8.7 billion. Thus far, KES 1 billion (US$12.1m) has already been spent on constructing 19 substations and upgrading programme.
For the project, Kenya Power Lighting Co has set aside US$595m for the substations, power lines and the like. Moreover, KPLC managing director is in talks with Exim Bank of China, who might contribute KES 12 billion (US$130 m). The remaining amount is expected to come from World Bank.
Ultimately, Kenya has a lot to gain, economically and socially if the project is completed successfully. The project will try to stabilize power supply and as a result reduce power failures and blackouts. As well, it will give way to increased electricity access, improved supply capacity and reliability and not to mention that it would render Kenya into an attractive place for investments.