Technology

Micro grids must be the next big thing in electricity supply

A section of Oginga Odinga streets in Kisumu in total darkness following a power blackout on January 9, 2018. Photo | Ondari Ogega | NMG
A section of Oginga Odinga streets in Kisumu in total darkness following a power blackout on January 9, 2018. Photo | Ondari Ogega | NMG 

Electricity, among other benefits, allows work beyond the 8am to 5pm schedule.

Electricity is one of the most sought after utilities and nations the world over are working on renewable avenues to replace the fossil fuel base of coal, oil and natural gas, committed towards reducing carbon footprint. Wind and solar lead the charge.

Some markets have recorded huge progress in this regard, with countries like Germany — it is now public — on occasion forced to shut down plants or pay consumers to mop up excess capacity due to over production. 

In Kenya, though, we are grappling with the basics across the entire electricity supply chain.

The simplified journey of the joule that makes up the kilowatt hour for which you are billed is generation.

The Kenya Electricity Generating Company #ticker:KEGN does it through hydro, thermal and geothermal channels; relay is the work of Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco), who design, build and maintain high voltage transmission infrastructure.

Kenya Power and Lighting Company #ticker:KPLC is the distributor.

KenGen and Kenya Power are listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange but both have a high government holding, while Ketraco is State-owned.

Universal power is a big task, one that the government has decided to tackle but I think it is ill-equipped to scale and meet critical service level agreements of a key utility.

Dismantling the current monopoly on the last mile and liberalising the sector to allow for independent players would see healthy competition in the set-up and operation of micro-grids.

This move would better serve consumers whether they are in dense cities or in remote communities while complementing the national grid.

The total cost of use, which is currently difficult to understand for the average consumer with variables such as the fuel cost charge, forex, and inflation adjustment would go down.

We would do away with bill guestimates as operators will more likely than not have better systems. Depending on the rollout, consumers could be empowered to switch suppliers on demand; true power to the people.