No more cuts during network maintenance, says utility firm

Wednesday June 8 2016

By JAMES KARIUKI
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Homes and businesses will no longer suffer electricity cuts after Kenya Power starts live maintenance of its network without switching it off.

Kenya Power managing director Ben Chumo said the live maintenance will boost the utility’s sales and save companies from losses caused by electricity disruptions.

The utility has been investing billions of shillings upgrading its transmission network to boost reliability of power supply, prompting electricity cuts during repairs.

Kenya Power also suffers from frequent blackouts because of generation shortfalls and an ageing grid.

“This is a new initiative we are deploying to ensure we minimise and eventually eliminate the need to switch off our customers to undertake repair works, routine maintenance, system reinforcement and connection of new customers,” the managing director said. “We are the second utility company in Sub- Saharan Africa after Eskom of South Africa to deploy this technology.”

The live maintenance will start in Nairobi before a countrywide rollout.

Kenya Power has invested Sh720 million in the first phase of the project, which saw the training of 72 technicians, while the World Bank has offered Sh202 million for the second phase.

The technicians will mainly operate on 11kV, 33kV and 66kV distribution lines, which are non-high voltage lines that link homes and businesses to substations.

“We are focused on bringing down energy losses in our network to a single digit figure. Live line maintenance is key in achieving this because every time we switch off a line for maintenance we lose on efficiency,” said Kenya Power chairman Kenneth Marende.

Kenya Power has invested Sh10 billion in the current financial year towards strengthening transmission to cut the losses from 17.5 per cent to below 10 per cent.

The utility is losing about Sh17.5 billion annually through electricity thefts and leakages from an ageing transmission network.

The firm had an earlier target of keeping the transmission losses below 15 per cent.

The combination of power theft and leakages from the ageing transmission grid, which stems from the long period of under-investment, has continued to keep the system beyond the set targets.

Kenya Power recorded a six per cent growth in net profit to Sh7.43 billion for the year ended June 30. This means that system losses of Sh17.5 billion is more than twice the firm’s annual profits and equivalent to 22.4 per cent of its Sh77.8 billion sales.

The inefficiency in the power flow system happens in high voltage wires, substations and low voltage lines connecting households and businesses.