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EDITORIAL: Use cheaper energy sources to lower electricity bills

Kenya has aggressively diversified its electricity sources to become Africa’s top geothermal energy producer. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kenya has aggressively diversified its electricity sources to become Africa’s top geothermal energy producer. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Electricity distributor Kenya Power’s #ticker:KPLC customer billing system is in the spotlight again after thousands of consumers received highly inflated bills for January.

Even as it strives to save its face, the latest billing data indicates that the price of electricity has generally been going up in the last 12 months.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows that electricity bills for homes that consume 200 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month hit a record high of Sh4,069 in January, having crossed the Sh4,000-mark for the first time a month earlier.

Even more damning, the low-income earners – the lot that consumes 50 units of electricity -  had their bills grow by 22 per cent to Sh682 last month, up from Sh669 in December and Sh559 in January last year.

It is understandable when external factors such as forex levy and inflation charge push up electricity bills. In January, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), for instance, raised the forex segment of the power bills to a five-month high of Sh1.40 per unit.

Similarly, inflation charge also soared to an all-time high of Sh0.42 per unit. The government – and Kenya Power in particular – does not have absolute control over forex and inflation changes, which largely depend on the general health of the economy.

But the two factors only tell part of the high power bills story. To a larger extent, the ballooning bill is driven by high fuel levy, which has risen to a three-year high of Sh4.30 per unit.

That is what makes for a policy contradiction. For a government which has consistently campaigned on the platform of affordable electricity for homes and businesses, that beats every logic.

The rapid growth in fuel levy can only imply that an increasing volume of thermal power still finds its way into the national electricity dispatch system.

Kenya has aggressively diversified its electricity sources to become Africa’s top geothermal energy producer.

It is also among the top producers of hydropower in the world and has made significant efforts to boost its wind and solar energy production.

Why would a country with such a profile fill its national grid with diesel-generated energy? Kenya Power must clarify.

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