The discovery of electricity empowered mankind to work beyond the limits of daylight driving development across the ages. Electricity continues to hold ground as 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 their carbon footprint and cultivating the use of greener sources of energy; wind and solar leading the charge. Some markets have recorded tremendous progress in this regard, with countries like Germany on occasion forced to shut down plants or pay consumers to mop up excess capacity due to over production; a good problem to have in my opinion.
In Kenya we are still 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, handled by the Kenya Electricity Generating Company through hydro, thermal and geothermal channels; relay, handled by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Limited, who are charged with the design, build and maintenance of high voltage transmission infrastructure and finally retail, handled by the Kenya Power and Lighting Company. KenGen and Kenya Power are listed at the Nairobi bourse but both have a high government holding, while KETRACO is fully state owned.
Universal power is a big task, one that government has decided to tackle but I feel it is ill equipped to scale adequately and meet critical service level agreements of a key utility. Dismantling the current monopoly on the last mile and liberalizing the sector to allow for independent players would see healthy competition in the setup 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 very difficult to understand for the average consumer with variables such as the fuel cost charge, forex provision, and inflation adjustment would go down. We would finally do away with bill guestimates as operators will more likely than not have better systems all round. To crown it all, depending on the rollout, consumers could be empowered to switch supplier’s ondemand without disruption to daily living, truly power to the people.