Business Daily: Electricity connections must stay on course

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For more than a week, we have been urging Kenya Power to comment on the reasons behind the apparent freeze on new electricity connections that have left thousands of  households and new businesses without power.

But the power firm has opted to keep the reasons to  itself – never mind that it is a public company with a large government ownership.

Reports from consumers indicate that Kenya Power has, since January, stopped accepting any payments for new connections, turning away would-be customers in the hope that the charges levied for the service would rise turning into a windfall for the company.

That Kenya Power can freeze or even slowdown delivery of this important service in the full knowledge that it is a monopoly is unacceptable. The Parliamentary Committee on Energy headed by Jamleck Kamau must, as the people’s representatives wade into this matter and seek explanations as to why it is unable to connect new customers.

After Deputy President William Ruto met top energy officials, the government rejected Kenya Power’s bid to double connection charges to Sh70,000 from Sh34,980.

It is possible that Kenya Power is playing a wait-and-see game hoping to create a crisis that will eventually see the government yield to those demands.

The Energy Regulatory Commission cannot also feign ignorance about the freeze and Kenyans should not be left at the mercy of Kenya Power awaiting a “study” on the connection cost.

ERC director- general Kaburu Mwirichia should use his powers to  make sure that businesses and households are not jeopardised.

Article 5 of the Energy Act makes it clear that the role of the ERC is to protect the interests of consumers, investors and  other stakeholder interests. Also, ERC in exercise of its powers cannot be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority. So why is ERC sleeping on the job?

Finally, it is only ERC which has the power to set, review and adjust electric power tariffs and tariff structures, and to investigate tariff charges. If Kenya Power wants a review of its tariffs, they should clear that with ERC and should not use would-be customers as bait.

Kenya Power should read again Section 61 of the Energy Act, which inter alia says that a “ licensee shall not, except for reasons beyond his control, reduce, discontinue or refuse the supply of electrical energy to any consumer.”

At the moment, Kenya Power is treading on dangerous grounds and would-be consumers can sue the monopoly for failing them. As it stands now, that freeze on new connection is monopolistic and should be abandoned.

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