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Economy

Rains fail to reduce power bills on poor hydro connection

ERC director-general Joseph Ng’ang’a: There is excess power but some plants cannot generate fully due to limitations in the transmission lines. PHOTO | FILE
ERC director-general Joseph Ng’ang’a: There is excess power but some plants cannot generate fully due to limitations in the transmission lines. PHOTO | FILE 

Power bills will in June remain unchanged for the fifth month as restricted electricity transmission capacity curbed supply of increased cheaper hydro power to the national grid.

Official data show that fuel adjustment levy, which is linked to the amount of power generated from expensive diesel and supplied to the national grid, has remained at Sh2.31 per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity consumed this month.

This goes against the promise by Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to lower electricity bills for this month due to heavy rains that have filled dams for cheaper hydropower generation.

“There is excess power but some plants cannot generate fully due to limitations in the transmission lines. This has curtailed evacuation of maximum power from geothermal and hydro,” ERC director-general Joseph Ng’ang’a said when reached for comment.

He attributed the transmission hitch to delays in constructing high-voltage lines and substations by Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) for Kenya Power to transport cheaper power from plants owned by power producer KenGen to homes and businesses.

This means Kenya Power has continued to buy expensive diesel-fired electricity from independent power producers despite the recent increase in KenGen’s geothermal energy capacity and hydropower.

Mr Ng’ang’a said the fuel levy would remain between Sh2 and Sh3 until the ongoing construction works to reinforce the transmission system are complete.

“We are looking at a position where the fuel charge is completely removed from power bills in future,” he said.

Forex levy that meets expenses incurred in hard currency by utility firms, has also stagnated at Sh1 per unit since January, according to the ERC.

The regulator had last month promised cheaper electricity bills for homes and businesses due to ongoing heavy rains that have filled dams.

Homes consuming 50 kilowatts hours (kWh) paid Sh534.30 since January while those that used 200 units paid Sh3,398, official data shows.

The ERC every month receives power consumption data from electricity distributor Kenya Power to review the fuel cost levy and forex charge. The regulator uses data from the previous month to calculate the monthly variables.

Hydropower is Kenya’s cheapest power source and is unreliable since it is dependent on weather. This has prompted a diversification plan hinged on renewable energy, especially geothermal, which is priced at about Sh7 per unit, hydropower (Sh3) while thermal tops Sh18.

Last August, the energy regulator put power utilities on the spot for not aggressively pursuing cheaper hydropower despite increased water levels in dams. This came after the fuel levy hit a nine-month high of Sh3.11 per unit at the time.

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