President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday launched a mega consumer power connectivity drive that is expected to take electricity to millions of homes at a lower cost.
The project, which is specifically targeting households, uses cheaper transmission line designs to cut the cost of connectivity to Sh15,000 from the Sh36,000 that applicants whose homes are located within 600 metres of a transformer have been paying.
Kenya Power, the electricity distributor implementing the plan, said it is using a new transmission line design known as the Single Wire Earthing Return (SWER) to rollout the Last Mile Connectivity Project (LMCP), giving unconnected consumers cheaper access to power.
Speaking in Machakos during the launch of the project, Mr Kenyatta said power consumers have the option of paying the Sh15,000 in cash or in instalments through their monthly bills, removing a major hurdle for rural electrification.
“By 2017, 70 per cent of Kenyan households should have access to power,” Mr Kenyatta said. If achieved, the target would double the 35 per cent of households currently connected to the grid.
Lowering the cost of connectivity will also come as a relief to thousands of rural consumers who have been aspiring to connect their homes to the national grid but could not pay the more than Sh70,000 that Kenya Power demanded for homes located outside the 600 metres radius of a transformer.
Under the LMCP initiative, the requirement that distinguished between customers living within and beyond the 600 metre radius of transformer is effectively removed, because the state will shoulder the costs of bringing transformers closer to homes.
The plan is to connect 2.3 million new customers to the national power grid. Kenya Power said households where wiring has not been done will be issued with a “ready board” which comes with sockets and ports for lighting and plugging electronics.
The Sh34 billion initiative is being financed through the Kenya Electrification Fund that is backed by Sh13.5 billion each from the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB), and Sh7 billion from the French Development Agency (FDA).
Some Sh58.2 billion will spent in the next three years to supply electricity to remote areas and instal transformers closer to unconnected homes.
Kenya Power managing director Ben Chumo said timelines within which households will pay the instalments through power bills would be announced on Thursday.
“Payment will vary according to customers’ financial ability but we will announce tomorrow (Thursday) the period within which they will be required to have paid,” said Dr Chumo.
Kenya Power said the SWER system will be mainly used to connect domestic consumers in the rural areas.
SWER allows for lower cost of connection to be realised through use of single, thinner and lighter cables as opposed to the current system that uses two or four cables to connect domestic consumers.
Dr Chumo said Kenya Power will further cut costs by using smaller poles that will be spaced 100 metres apart instead of the current 50 metres, due to the lighter wire load.
The power utility firm is also phasing out wooden poles and replacing them with more expensive concrete poles that last longer, hence providing long-term cost savings on replacements.
The president said the decision to reduce the cost of installation was reached following the progress that the government has achieved in increasing power generation and is aimed at allowing the public access electricity.
Kenya Power and the Rural Electrification Authority are also planning to take a proactive approach to provide new connections by approaching potential customers and offering to connect them to the grid, unlike in the past when they waited for applications from interested customers.
Towards this end, when a resident in a certain area makes a request to be connected, that single application will serve as a basis to install electricity in all neighbouring homes.
An estimated 3.2 million homes are connected to the grid but Kenya Power is in a race to more than double the number in the next couple of years as it looks to create demand for an extra 5,000 megawatts that will be injected into the grid by 2017.
The new customers are expected to help the listed utility firm grow its profits which have already benefited from a recent tariff review.