Kenya Power opts for underground cables to stabilise electricity supply

Kenya Power has turned to wide-scale underground cabling to stabilise electricity supply and cushion homes and businesses from crippling outages.

The multi-billion shilling project will involve installation of underground power transmission lines to provide alternative supply and expand the power grid at a lower cost while reducing vandalism associated with overhead infrastructure. The project will commence in Nairobi at a cost of Sh13.2 billion for the laying of a 30.7 kilometre line network and is set for completion in July next year.

The capital city has in recent months grappled with power blackouts blamed on Kenya Power’s ageing power grid and transformer vandalism, hurting businesses and inconveniencing homes. “The project will improve power quality in Nairobi city centre and its environs by providing alternative supply to the existing substations,” Kenya Power managing director Ben Chumo said during the launch in Nairobi.

“It will improve system flexibility leading to reduced downtime and scale down system losses.” The buried transmission lines will connect to a new city centre substation as part of the system reinforcement plan. The World Bank says Kenyans stay without power for 25 days a year on average due to blackouts. Kenya Power is now banking on the underground network to get into its five million customers’ good books.

Speed up expansion

The electricity distributor expects to ride on the underground infrastructure to speed up expansion of its distribution network and cut costs associated with cash compensation for wayleaves acquisition for overhead infrastructure.

READ: Kenya Power replaces cables to cut costs

The company said that the Sh13.2 billion is a concessionary loan from Exim Bank of China. “The works will also involve connection of new city centre substation to the existing substations through underground cables and extension of the existing 66kV (kilovolt) substations,” Dr Chumo said.

The company targets to cut network system losses from 19 per cent to below 10 per cent.

It has been losing billions of shillings through electricity thefts and leakages from an ageing transmission network, translating to lost earnings to shareholders of the listed utility.

Kenya Power has increased connections significantly, particularly in rural areas, pushing the number of households on the grid to five million from one million in 2010.

The number is set to grow even further with the rollout of the Last Mile connectivity project where homes will be connected to the national grid at Sh15,000 down from Sh35,000.