More hit as Kenya Power meter shortage worsens

Kenya Power meter box

A Kenya Power employee inspects a meter box at an apartment building in Tassia Estate, Nairobi in February 2020. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

An acute shortage of electricity meters has worsened amid a massive pile up of unprocessed applications, affecting fresh power connections as well as replacement of faulty or stolen gadgets.

And in a double blow for consumers, prices of available meters have shot up significantly forcing them to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for the equipment that allows them to buy electricity.

“A prepaid meter is currently being sold at Sh8,000 compared to Sh2,000 last year,” a customer who was recently given a quotation for meters by the utility told the Nation. Kenya Power could not immediately be reached for comment yesterday amid growing complaints by affected consumers. The utility firm had in October last year attributed the shortage to procurement woes that had derailed its purchase of thousands of meters.

This comes at a time the company has accelerated its electrification programme across the country, and in December for the first time crossed the nine million customer mark leading to a huge demand for meters.

The shortage even forced the utility to go after landlords and homeowners to repossess meters that had not been used for six months so that they could be sold to other customers.

“As part of its normal business operations, Kenya Power is continuously reviewing its customer and asset database to identify ways of optimising its resources. One of the outcomes of this process is the recovery of meters that have been inactive for a period of six months, which we re-allocate to active customers to ensure that the business makes a return on all its assets,” said Kenya Power at the time.

The firm said customers whose meters were repossessed could apply again at their own cost when they needed to be reconnected to the power supply.

The firm has been battling local suppliers in court who have protested at the tough terms the utility introduced in its latest bid to procure meters worth Sh2 billion, delaying the process for months.

Four local dealers – Smart Meters Technology Ltd, Shenzhen Star Instrument Company Ltd, Magnate Ventures Ltd, and Inhemeter Africa Company Ltd – took Kenya Power to court, saying it had placed limits on the tender that favoured foreigners.

They said the requirement for a successful bidder to have a minimum of 15 years of technical specifications experience in the manufacture of energy meters was unlawful and biased.

Kenya Power, however, argued that the stringent requirements were aimed at ensuring that the company procures meters of high quality.

The meter shortage could see illegal power connections grow at a time the company is losing billions of shillings every year due to electricity theft.