Kenya Power plans double voltage lines to ease losses

High Voltage Lines

Workers connect high-voltage power lines. 

Photo credit: File

Kenya Power is set to double the voltage of some of its power lines in Nairobi as part of a new strategy to reduce technical losses, which deny the firm billions of shillings in revenue every year.

“If you double the voltage that you use to move power, you reduce the technical losses by a quarter,” Kenya Power Managing Director Joseph Siror told a press briefing in Nairobi.

Since a higher current means that more heat is generated (and heat is lost energy), transmitting higher voltages reduces the current, thus also reducing heat or energy lost along power lines.

The utility’s system losses increased marginally to 23 per cent in the year to June 2023, about half of which were technical losses resulting from leakages within the transmission and distribution system.

The other half was commercial losses largely arising from power theft, especially in informal settlements.

Dr Siror said reducing technical losses is a hard task as it is expensive. He said that for instance, the power firm can cut resistance within its network by using copper wires, but they are costly.

“In Nairobi, we want to step up the capacity of some of the 66 kilovolts (kV) lines to 132kV to reduce the technical losses,” he said.

The utility says it incurs a lot of technical losses because the overwhelming majority of its lines are low-voltage distribution cables, which have high losses.

Dr Siror said the firm has only about 7,000 kilometres of high voltage transmission lines, which record the least resistance and, therefore, the least level of technical losses.

In contrast, it has more than 82,000 kilometres of medium voltage and 200,000 kilometres of low voltage distribution lines which have the highest losses.

The company is especially keen to reduce system losses because the energy regulator has cut the threshold of losses that the utility can pass on to consumers.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) this year allows Kenya Power to pass 18.5 per cent of the losses to consumers through higher electricity bills.

This is a significant drop from a threshold of 19.9 per cent in the year ended June 2023.

This means that unless the company reduces the system losses, it will shoulder a larger share of the losses in its books.