Editorials

Kenya Power is ripe for surgery to survive, grow

KENYAPOWER2409F

Kenya Power workers relocate power lines along Waiyaki Way on September 24 to pave the way for the Nairobi Expressway. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Power should know that it is not only the industrialists who are migrating, even the smallest consumers have found alternatives in cheaper sources and soon the problem of idle power will be worse than what is today.

Chickens are slowly but surely coming home to roost for Kenya Power that a few weeks ago reported its first loss in 17 years of Sh2.98 billion for the year ending June 2020.

The power distribution monopoly has just raised the alarm in its annual report, saying it was facing a bleak future with the rush by industrialists to go for own-generated solar power in the quest for cheaper energy and reliable supplies.

One, Kenya Power is a monopoly, meaning it has no competitor in connecting homes, individuals and businesses.

However, the latest switch by the industrialists that it says account for more than half of its sales revenue at 54.8 percent has been long in coming. This threat and competition would have been spotted many years ago. Unfortunately, it was not, going by the cry of the company.

For a very long time, the writing has been on the wall and Kenya Power would have seen the signs and changed tack for survival, if not for growth.

Instead, the monopoly probably joined the ranks of organisations who think, wrongly so, that they are too big to fail. Too big to lose.

While they were in the dreamland, better innovations were coming, and natural events like the current Covid-19 pandemic prepared the ground for drowning the complacent while giving others like those migrating industrialists room to invest in earth-shattering innovations in efforts to survive harsh economic times.

For a very long time, Kenya Power has been accused of all manner of ills, including inflated and inexplicable bills that saw some consumers go to court in pursuit of justice.

Indeed, some homes for a long time have not seen the utility firm’s personnel who used to come regularly to read the meters, leaving them in the dark and darkness literally.

“The dampened demand growth is further compounded with the increased threats of grid defection by the industrial category as decentralised renewable energy options become more available and cheaper,” Kenya Power says in annual report.

The company needs to answer some hard questions of when it realised that industrialists were getting more access to cheaper options and why it did not do something about the heavy migration.

The power distributor has also done poorly on reliability, sometimes registering outages covering huge swathes of the country, leaving homes and industries in eerie darkness.

Save for the heavy-consumption areas like cities, some of the so-called last-mile areas whose connections have been painful remained in darkness for days with no personnel in sight. That cannot be tolerated and most likely trigger the search for options, which are many.

In fact, Kenya Power should know that it is not only the industrialists who are migrating, even the smallest consumers have found alternatives in cheaper sources and soon the problem of idle power will be worse than what is today.

Kenya Power ought to know that consumers buy into products and services to solve problems and it would not be right to keep running after a monopoly whose services are getting worse by the day.

The latest report is a wake-up call to the power distributor to identify, using the well-known SWOT analysis, for example, to know when its cheese that it has enjoyed for ages moved.

It is a harsh verdict on Kenya Power board and the management that they had to wait for this long to realise that they were facing serious business threats.

Going forward, it behoves the government to come up with right strategy of salvaging the situation at this energy giant that is increasingly losing the ground to technology, innovation, and better management at its top customers who are keen on resilience and are using better ways to win the tough survival war while eyeing growth.