278,000 more homes to be connected under last mile power plan

Elizabeth Keter Cherotich at her house in Nandi, which was connected to electricity under the Last Mile Connectivity Project in October last year. PHOTO | Jared Nyataya | NMG

More than 270, 000 homes will be connected to electricity at subsidised rates through a joint plan by the governments of Kenya and Saudi Arabia and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

President William Ruto mentioned the project yesterday, but did not disclose when it will start or the type of funding that AfDB and the Saudi government will provide.

This comes as Kenya Power moves to start the fourth phase of the Last Mile Connectivity (LMC) project where another 280, 000 homes are set to be connected to electricity.

The two projects will boost government’s efforts of ensuring universal access to electricity for all Kenyan homes.

“As I speak, we are working on a similar connectivity programme worth Sh22 billion in partnership with the AfDB and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to connect more than 270,000 customers,” Dr Ruto said yesterday during the signing of 28 contract lots for the fourth phase of the LMC.

The two deals will cement AfDB’s critical role in driving electricity connections in Kenya.

AfDB has alongside European Union (EU) and European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed to provide Sh26 billion for the fourth phase of the LMC project that intends to connect 280,000 homes to electricity.

The LMC programme enables homes that are near transformers to be connected to the national grid at a subsidised fee of Sh15,000.
Kenya, supported by major development partners and financiers, started the project a decade ago in a bid to light up more homes and boost electricity sales to Kenya Power.

“If we can do it in 12 months, the donors will give us more money,” Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir said yesterday during the contract signing for the project.

The Exchequer has blown hot and cold over commitment to the project due to sustained budgetary cuts, prompting concerns from key financiers.

For example, allocation for the project was last year cut to Sh6.4 billion from Sh11.4 billion.

The Sh26 billion funding from AfDB, EU, EIB includes a grant of Sh4.3 billion.

The project targets 32 counties, excluding Nairobi and Mombasa and is expected to be completed within 18 months.

The project will grow Kenya Power’s customer numbers even as questions linger over the return on investments from the connections under the LMC.

Kenya Power added 253,480 new customers between July and December last year, contributing to a cumulative grid-connected customer base of 9,456,158 at the close of the year.

Majority of homes in the rural areas— major target of LMC— use significantly low amounts of electricity per day, typically to charge phones and controlled lighting.

The low use of electricity has failed to significantly boost Kenya Power’s electricity sales, leaving the utility firm to continue relying on the big consumers (industries, small businesses and big institutions).

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