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Kenya in Sh270bn race to connect all homes

A beneficiary of the Last Mile project in Uasin Gishu. file photo | nmg
A beneficiary of the Last Mile project in Uasin Gishu. file photo | nmg 

The Kenyan government has hatched yet another multi-billion shilling plan to ramp up electricity connections among poor households despite the harsh economic realities that have left distributor Kenya Power with more than 800,000 non-active customers.

Over five million households will be connected to the national grid in the next four years under a Sh270 billion plan, whose aim is to achieve universal access to electricity, the Ministry of Energy said.

The ambitious Kenya National Electrification Strategy, which aims to have every household connected to power through grid expansions and off-grid sources by 2022, was launched yesterday in Nairobi.

Energy secretary Charles Keter said the plan, to be implemented in partnership with funding agencies such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, forms the final phase of the mass power connections that have expanded connectivity to over 70 percent of households from just 30 percent four years ago.

“Through this plan, we will ensure every household, even in the remotest part of Kenya, will have access to electricity which is a key enabler for the realization of the Vision 2030,” Mr Keter said, adding that the government was also determined to ensure that the cost of power is kept low to improve demand.

Under the subsidized connectivity plan, newly-supplied homes will pay Sh15,000 over time as they continue to consume the power as has been done under the Last Mile connectivity plan.

Households located within 15 kilometres of existing Kenya Power lines will be given priority in what is expected to yield 269,000 connections. Additional transformers will be installed in new areas to connect housing clusters within 600 metres and two kilometres. This is expected to get 2.7 million new customers connected.

Suppliers of mini grids have also been roped into the multi-billion shilling project and are expected to connect 35,000 households from 121 mini grids located in areas far from the national grid.

Mr Keter said private investors are expected to pump in another Sh45 billion to get two million households connected using stand-alone solar home systems.

The government, with the help of donors, promised to raise some Sh230 billion to finance the plan.

World Bank Country Director Felipe Jaramillo pledged to support the programme, terming it a critical catalyst in any effort to promote business growth and reducing poverty.

“The World Bank stands ready to support the government in this ambitious endeavour. The bank will continue its long-term engagement to support Kenya’s effort to improve the lives of its citizens,” Mr Jaramillo said.

Kenya Power, which is set to take more pressure under the expanded connectivity plan, is expected to play a key role in the programme, including operation of the mini grids and collection of levies from customers to finance electricity expansion and subsidies.

The power distributor has been under financial pressure after several households connected in a similar fashion failed to consume power and pay bills.

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