Editorials

Kenya Power’s uptake of costly thermal puzzling

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A Kenya Power technician at work. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Power owes consumers an explanation why it opted to raise the amount of thermal power in the energy mix last month, while leaving unused capacity from the cheaper geothermal and hydro power.
  • Such a decision smacks of insensitivity to the plight of consumers, who are already reeling from job losses and reduced income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kenya Power owes consumers an explanation why it opted to raise the amount of thermal power in the energy mix last month, while leaving unused capacity from the cheaper geothermal and hydro power.

Such a decision smacks of insensitivity to the plight of consumers, who are already reeling from job losses and reduced income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kenyans are already paying a steep price for power, with the promises of cheaper electricity made by the government in the past decade yet to be fully honoured.

Kenya Power is also seeking an upward revision of the existing tariffs in order to cover its costs.

By taking the highest proportion of thermal power in more than a year while slowing down on the cheaper geothermal power, the firm made consumers pay a higher fuel cost charge of Sh2.6 per kilowatt hour (kWh), up from Sh2.4 that has been in place since May 2020.

KenGen’s disclosure that it compensated for a lower output from the geothermal plants that were under maintenance by increasing hydropower output raises further questions over Kenya Power’s decision to increase use of thermal power last month.

The higher cost of power relative to competing economies has had the effect of making Kenyan exports more expensive in the market, thus hurting the economy.

Therefore, Kenya Power has an obligation to ensure that it is supplying to consumers the cheapest mix of power available, given that its obligation is to the taxpayer. Billions of shillings in taxpayer money has also been spent on setting up the geothermal power plants that are run by KenGen.

Leaving a share of this power idle and ramping up use of thermal electricity that is supplied by private firms is denying the taxpayer value for money.

It may therefore be time to look at how the Energy Control Centre, which manages the uptake of energy from the various sources for distribution on the national grid, is being managed.

The centre needs stronger oversight from the energy regulator, who will guarantee that the cheapest mix is taken up, of course without compromising the stability of power supply.