Why you won’t ‘divorce’ Kenya Power that easily

Kenya Power

Kenya Power offices on Aga Khan Walk in Nairobi. 

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Unreliable supply and outages fuel the urgent need to decamp.
  • Leading electricity consumers have put up alternative electricity sources.

Millions of existing Kenya Power customers will be tied to the power utility indefinitely despite the State opening up electricity distribution market to other firms.

The Energy (Electricity Market, Bulk Supply and Open Access) Regulations, 2024 have barred existing clients from decamping to other firms set to enter the electricity distribution space.

Energy CS Davis Chirchir gazetted the regulations last month, as the State moves to end the monopoly that Kenya Power has enjoyed for decades.

The regulations say existing Kenya Power customers will not be allowed to enter deals with the other distributors, in clauses that silently protect the utility firm from customer defections en masse.

Additionally, they have not prescribed a transmission period upon which Kenya Power customers will be able to ditch firm.

“Subject to section 145(4) of the Act, a licensee may supply a consumer provided that the said consumer has no existing contract for supply of electrical energy with any other licensee,” the draft regulations read.

“Subject to section 145(4) of the Act, a consumer shall choose his retail supplier provided that the said consumer shall not have two supply contracts for the same premises.”

The clauses mean that the over 9.2 million homes and businesses will be stuck with the State-owned power distributor for years, with official records showing clients are staying in dark for about 115.73 hours annually.

It remains unclear whether Mr Chirchir will make changes to the particular clauses and introduce a transition period for existing Kenya Power customers to opt for the new distributors.

There have been fears that opening up electricity distribution to other players would lead to huge defections by disgruntled Kenya Power customers.

Frequent outages in addition to costly bills are fueling a sharp rise in the number of potential and existing customers opting for alternative electricity sources, mainly solar and biomass.

Big firms such as Kenya Breweries, Bamburi Cement, Carbacid Investments, Africa Logistics Properties, and Mombasa International Airport are some of the leading electricity consumers who have put up alternative electricity sources.

Wealthy homes are also putting up solar systems in a bid to end reliance on Kenya Power’s supply besides cutting bills.

Under the regulations, Kenya Power and the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) will allow other firms to use their transmission and distribution networks to transmit electricity to consumers, upon payment of wheeling charges.

Kenya Power had 9.2 million customers as of June last year, but the period marked the slowest rate of customer additions at 318,217 additions.