Kenya Power expects the expansion of its grid to slow down as the number of people with access to electricity reaches saturation, its chief executive said on Tuesday, adding that its capital expenditure for this year would rise slightly.

Ken Tarus, who is also its managing director, said the utility aimed to connect 1.2-million new customers to the grid by the end of June 2018, to add to the 6.2-million at the end of June, which represents 70% of Kenya’s population of 45-million having access to electricity.

He added that the utility will also add another 3 400 kilometres of medium voltage – 11 kV and 33 kV – powerlines to its grid in this financial year to end of next June, down from 6 674 km built in the previous year.

The company will also build 14 new substations, compared with 27 in the year that ended in June.

“As you get closer to the universal access then the need to do those long extensions shrinks,” Tarus told Reuters in an interview.

He said the east African nation’s sole power distributor will spend 43-billion shillings ($416.87-million) this financial year, up from 41-billion shillings in the year that ended in June.

“These funds go into our priority projects, such as the construction of new substations, the building of new distribution lines and the implementation of the automation technology towards achieving what you would consider as the smart grid,” Tarus said.

Kenya Power, 50.1% State-owned, receives most of its funds in concessional or soft loans from institutions such as the World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank and the government.

Kenya Power has over the years invested heavily in improving its grid and expanding it while at the same time reducing the number of power outages that businesses have cited as an impediment to investment.

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