Kenya’s maximum power demand crossed the 1,800-megawatt (MW) mark last month on increased consumption by a handful of large consumers.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) says that peak demand hit 1,802 MW on June 6 from 1,770 MW at the start of the year – a two per cent growth over the half-year period.
The rise has been chiefly attributed to the State’s introduction of discounted night-time electricity tariffs last December for manufacturers as an incentive to fire up demand.
The peak demand of 1,802 MW against the country’s total installed capacity of 2,351 MW, leaves the country with a reserve margin of 549 MW, according to the ERC.
The reserve power often takes care of emergency situations like when several plants are taken off the national grid during maintenance or unforeseen breakdowns.
But the demand growth has been fuelled by only a few large users since the majority consumers have very low consumption levels. The energy regulator says that monthly power bills of 3.6 million households, or over half Kenya Power’s total customers, is Sh305 or Sh10 a day.
These bottom-end homes use 15 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity or less every month, meaning majority of them use electricity for charging phones and lighting a few rooms. They are likely not plugged to home appliances like fridges, TV, cookers and micro waves.
Commercial customers, including businesses and factories, comprise only 348,459 customers, equivalent to a paltry five per cent of Kenya Power’s total customer count of 6.5 million. Of the commercial consumers, only 6,000 of them have a consumption of above 15,000 units per month and account for 60 per cent of Kenya Power’s electricity revenues.
Millions of homes have recently been hooked to the power grid under a government subsidy programme dubbed last mile connectivity project meant to speed up electrification. This has increased Kenya Power’s customer base from about two million in 2013 to 6.5 million. Most are in remote areas and slums with low consumption levels.