Nairobi — Kenya Power Managing Director Joseph Njoroge says they are seeking the government's support to increase the penalty for vandalism of electricity infrastructure to life imprisonment.
The electricity provider currently incurs costs running up to billions of shillings annually in the replacement of vandalised infrastructure.
"The loss to the economy, which is those customers who will not be able to undertake their economic activities like manufacturers and small businesses spread throughout the country, is quite colossal," said Njoroge.
"We are talking about a loss of Sh5 billion to the economy as a result of vandalism!"
A man was last month jailed for 10 years without the option of a fine for stealing and destroying a transformer in Narok, but Njoroge considers this sentence lenient on account of the damages incurred due to power outages.
"We expect and we look forward to a reprimand of a life sentence because vandalism is economic sabotage and the impact is sometimes very grave," he charged. "If it is a hospital and somebody is undergoing an operation and the equipment is vandalised, it means that life will be lost."
The company plans to undertake underground cabling in the next five years in part to guard against vandalism by making the power system equipment harder to reach.
"In some places where we have raised them [transformers] they have still continued to vandalise them by using longer ladders."
Underground cabling is part of Kenya Power's strategic plan for the next five years and the company plans to raise Sh40 billion to fund the project together with the addition of substations.
Njoroge further said that sub-stations would be increased in the city centre, Westlands, Hurlingham, Lavington and Kileleshwa.
"Those areas you have seen that the character of the buildings has been changing from single dwelling houses to apartments calling for enhanced electricity supply."
Njoroge was speaking at the company's 91st Annual General Meeting held at the Bomas of Kenya.
Kenya Power recorded a profit of Sh4.6 billion in the 2011/2012 financial year up from Sh4.2 billion the year before, although company chairman Eliazar Ochola said the profit could have been higher were it not for prohibitive fuel costs.
The MD said it would take the long term measure of increased geo-thermal energy creation to shield consumers from high fuel costs adding that Kenya Power is powerless to do so in the short term.
The cost of electricity is set to go even higher with Njoroge calling on the Energy Regulatory Commission to take the belated measure of revising electricity tariffs.
Shareholders will receive a dividend of 30 cents per ordinary share having already received an interim dividend of 20 cents.