We want good quality power at low cost now.
For many Kenyans, Kenya Power (formerly KPLC), is a source of head-banging-against-the wall frustration. All too often do they sit in the dark and reflect on new acronyms for the company (such as Kenya Paraffin, formerly Kenya Paraffin Lamps and Candles).
Add that to the frequent press conferences by the business community decrying the uncompetitiveness of Kenya’s power grid and the customer’s chagrin when they review their bills and tokens to note that the cost of power has gone up – yet again. Further add that when the rains come, the lights invariably go.
The only good news from the company, goes to the investors – who in 2012, were happy to discover that the company had made pre-tax profits of a whopping 8 Billion shillings and a net profit of over 4.6 Billion. But this then presents us with a fundamental question about the only power distributor in Kenya: what is our attitude to electricity as a national resource? Should a publicly listed company be the only electricity distributor for the country – especially when we consider that its priority must be its obligation to its investors?
Can we as a country really become competitive from the standpoints of business (manufacturing, business process outsourcing etc) or even development if the production, distribution and management of electricity is of the quality that it currently is?
When asked about the increases in costs, management waffles about fuel costs and foreign exchange fluctuations, which the hapless Wanjiku has not the time to begin to understand. At the end of the year, well, profits again!
Perhaps the time has come for Kenyans to be clear. Because in a democracy the minority shall have their say and the majority their way, our country must achieve 100% electrification with good quality supply at a small cost now. To achieve this(in my humble opinion), we have two options.
First, strengthen Kenyans’ say in the setting of priorities for Kenya Power – the Permanent Secretary of energy, actually the incoming principal secretary of energy shall sit on the board of Kenya Power. Kenyans must produce more energy in ensuring that the company’s first priority is in the supply of good quality power. One may even be inclined to suggest that Kenyans consider nationalising Kenya power.
The second option is create competition so that Kenya Power does not own the grid, but instead have more players who own the grid and who increase its coverage according to their areas of competitiveness. Perhaps the time has come for Kenyans to ask themselves, what if we had electricity distributors who focus only on Nyanza? Surely they would seek to electrify the remotest parts of the province so that they have a strong customer base? Surely they would also work hard to find ways to reduce the cost and improve the quality of power?
Ultimately, the point is this: Kenya Power isn’t hearing Kenyans as well as it should and it is not responding fast enough to Kenyans desires as written in our Vision 2030. Maybe therefore, the time has come to force the issue?