Economy

Agency to purchase 15,000 bamboo electric poles

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Technicians repair power lines. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • This is the first time that the composite poles will be used in a large-scale electricity transmission project.
  • REREC says the composite poles—which are made from bamboo and polyurethane foam—are cheaper in the long term.

The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC) is seeking 15,000 electricity poles made from bamboo in a shift towards long-lasting eco-friendly posts.

The company has started tendering for the poles from local firms, making the first time the composite poles will be used in a large-scale electricity transmission project.

Kenya Power, Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) and REREC agreed to start using the bamboo-made poles, diversifying from concrete and wooden posts-- which have a shorter lifespan and are therefore more expensive over time.

The rural electrification agency will use the composite poles in swampy areas and zones infested with termites, which cut the wooden posts' life span to five years.

 Kenya Power and NMS will use the bamboo-made poles for connecting homes to the grid and street lighting respectively.

 “Supply of 10m composite poles –open to local manufacturers only. Within Seven (7) Months after Contract signing,” said REREC tender documents.

The state agency hopes to use the poles to replace aging poles as well as connect more rural homes to the national grid, offering a windfall to farmers who have embraced agroforestry, especially bamboo farming.

REREC says the composite poles—which are made from bamboo and polyurethane foam—are cheaper in the long term.

“As a result of its durability, lightweight and long lifecycle, EcoPole is the most cost-efficient choice for distribution of electricity,” said Peter Mbugua, REREC chief executive officer.

“It is strong and flexible against strong winds and the low weight makes it easy and less costly to transport and install. The poles also play a major role reducing deforestation,”

REREC reckons the eco-friendly poles can last more than 75 years compared with less than 10 years for wooden posts and between 15 and 30 years for concrete masts.

The state-run agency has set a cap of Sh50,000 for a composite pole compared with Sh25,000 and Sh12,000 for concrete and wooden posts respectively.

Electricity supply poles have become a lucrative business as Kenya moves to replace traditional wooden poles with alternatives like concrete and eco-friendly masts.

Kenya Power has grown its annual demand for poles to 450,000 issuing tenders worth Sh5 billion yearly under the money-minting National Electrification Programme.

The government is increasing electricity generation and investing in Kenya’s power grid to keep up with growing demand and reduce frequent blackouts.

More than 80 percent of Kenya’s population has access to electricity, up from 32 percent in 2014.

Editor's note: This story has been revised to reflect that the cost of the poles yet to be determined because the tender process is not complete.