Third national power blackout

There’s concern over the state of Kenya’s electricity system after the country today experienced its third national blackout this year.

Kenya’s cities and struggling industry came to a standstill at 8:40am today. According to the Daily Nation website, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company blames the outage on a faulty generation machine along Tana River.

The country is experiencing daily power cuts as the transmission system sags from overloading caused by decades of under-investment. Poor maintenance of generation and distribution equipment is also to blame.

The Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) is a state owned monopoly which buys most of its electricity from KenGen – another state player. Private power generators were first allowed in the mid 1990s but are widely thought to be controlled by the ruling elite.

Inspite of the poor quality of electricity supply, Kenyans are paying among the highest electricity tariffs in the world as both KPLC and KenGen grapple with bloated workforces and entrenched corruption. It is said that KPLC spends more money buying vehicles than it does on the proper maintenance of transmission lines.

In 2007, the Ministry of Energy criticized KPLC for failing to use billions of shillings meant to connect rural customers. As thousands of customers were put on a waiting list, the power company returned the funds to the treasury instead of buying poles, wires and electricity meters.

KPLC is undergoing dire financial straits and its continued survival is largely because of government pressure on KenGen to keep down the prices at which it supplies power to KPLC. However, the decision has starved KenGen of the money it needs to build new generation capacity as demand is constantly increasing.

In the year 2000, Kenya had its worst experience of power rationing. 12 hour power cuts led to the economy shrinking for two consecutive years. A return to power rationing will spell doom for the Kenyan economy, still struggling to recover from political violence that killed over 1,000 people this year.

One Response

  1. National blackouts,water rationing,price hikes of just about everything…where r we heading 2?

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