Columnists

Let’s stop scheduling power cuts

stima

The World Bank cites electricity as one of our major handicaps in doing business. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The time has come to call it a day with Kenya Power #ticker:KPLC. For sure, if we carry on supplying as little power to Nairobi suburb Kasarani as our national utility is managing, we could end up with a revolution.

But as one stares at day after day of power cuts in just that one area with its quarter of a million residents, it becomes starkly clear that Kenya Power doesn’t even understand a power cut as a failure.

For sure, Kasarani is not alone as an area of predominantly educated, working class youth, many of whom have been working from their homes for now three months, and for weeks yet ahead, dependent on power and internet to work at all.

Many of our capital city’s suburbs are in that same category, filled with apartments, filled with young researchers, writers, designers, developers, administrators, accountants, marketers and clerks.

And every time Kenya Power lets them all down again, they sit in working hours, unable to work at all.

When they were in offices, there was nearly always power back-up, but few have that luxury from home: so our work and economy and livelihoods is now more dependent on Kenya Power than ever. And that’s a very bad thing, because Kenya Power may be the least dependable electricity company in the world. Indeed, my challenge, is there a worse or more incompetent power supplier anywhere?

For one Nicholas Gatungu surely spoke for us all last week with his Tweet, shared by my staff alongside Kenya Power’s latest power cut schedule: “KPLC, a polite reminder that I hate you!!”. And rightly so. For where have we lost our way, and in this lockdown of all times, in our power company sharing these lists of planned power cuts, topped by three times as many unscheduled power cuts too?

In most countries of the world there are no power cuts at all. I literally mean, they run for 20 years without a power cut. In those countries, as in, nearly everywhere, if power was cut off once, for hours, to a quarter of a million of urban residents, it would make headlines, and maybe even prompt a parliamentary committee investigation.

In our country, it just means we had the Tuesday Kasarani power cut, just ahead of the Wednesday and Thursday cuts.

But the time has come to stop moaning about this terrible utility of ours, run by executives who think a schedule of power cuts should even exist without a headline: ‘We are an entirely incompetent management’ (your clue: it should not).

If Kenya Power cannot even maintain electricity in our capital city during lockdown and with our population working from home, then we have to face it: it is never going to cut it as a power utility. Let’s end our misery chasing competence from this supplier.

According to global consultancy PWC, in its most recent report on Africa’s energy sector, 88 per cent of the respondents it polled expect an overhaul of our electricity business models in this decade.

And what a relief, to lose our useless, incompetent, power-cutting monopoly for competition and alternative supplies and suppliers ahead.

We have amazing business leaders. Don’t stop where you are. Be the first to supply Kasarani with electricity that stays on, and we shall laud you. We shall move to you, buy from you, boast about you. Be our power hero or heroine.

For we all hate this supplier that thinks it’s acceptable to cut a customer’s power mid-email as they are sending the RFP or tender for new work, and leave it off for six hours, ensuring they miss the deadline, and losing Kenyan teams yet one more pile of work with their power devilry.

The World Bank cites electricity as one of our major handicaps in doing business.

So, in the meantime, our national power supplier should be banned from scheduling power cuts. It isn’t hard. Kenya Power, get onto the internet. Look up the contacts for any power utility in the world and ask them: how do you keep the lights on? And do that. Whatever they do, all of them, every day, all year, getting power supply right.