Vihiga bets on solar energy to reduce cost of water

Solar panels being installed at Lunyerere in Vihiga County to provide hybrid power that will pump water and help cut down on the high cost of electricity bills.

Photo credit: Derick Luvega | Nation Media Group.

Vihiga County Government has started adopting the hybrid system as an alternative to electricity to cut down on the high cost of power bills incurred from pumping water to various distribution points.
The devolved unit says it is paying an average of Sh3.5 million in power bills every month to pump and supply water to residents against a monthly collection of Sh4 million.
Acting Water Chief Officer James Odiero said this was making supply of the essential commodity costly.
Mr Odiero said the management is now using solar power to enable the county’s water firm to operate effectively.

The subsidy on power bills has enabled Amatsi Water Company, the firm that manages water supply in the county, not to pass the huge power bills on to consumers.
The water boss said more than 400 solar panels have been installed in the county to help address the burden of power costs.
The panels are being installed at various points, with the majority of them at Lunyerere, Maseno and Kaimosi.
The plan for solar comes at a time when the devolved unit is readying to connect at least 4,000 households to water supply by June 30 this year following the completion of the Sh1.7 billion Vihiga cluster water project. 

12.5 million litres a day

The project produces 12.5 million litres of water a day and it is expected to help increase collections from water bills.
“Electricity bills have been a burden to the county government. We have had to subsidise power bills so that everyone can have access to water and afford to pay for water bills,” said Mr Odiero.
He went on: “We are now going to solarisation to help cut down on the power bills to make water supply affordable. Our collection from water bills is even lower than the power bills we are being charged.
“That is why we have to subsidise the power bills so as to cushion the water consumers. If Amatsi Water Company was to use the water bills it collects to pay for the power bills in the absence of subsidisation, they would not have the money to undertake other operations,” he added.
To ensure maximum collection from water bills, the local administration is also issuing smart meters to consumers.
Mr Odiero said the smart meters will enable the county government to collect more revenue from water bills and make the water company remain afloat.
Following the completion of the Sh1.7 billion Vihiga cluster water project, Governor Wilber Ottichilo’s administration is now undertaking the last mile connectivity to connect households to water supply.
Mr Odiero said the plan saw the local administration allocate Sh25 million during the 2019/20 financial year and another Sh20 million in the 2020/21 financial year.
“We want to connect 4,000 households by the end of June and later reach everyone. That is why the cluster water project was constructed,” he said.
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