Nairobi — Energy Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir on Sunday said the government was actively seeking to bring down the power cost of doing business in Kenya in order to effectively compete with other African countries in attracting investors.
The upgrade that led to power interruptions in Westlands, Parklands and Loresho on Saturday and Sunday, he said, were part of those efforts by ensuring reliable power connection.
"We must be competitive when we compare ourselves with South Africa, Egypt, Mauritius and have Kenya be the destination of choice for global manufacturers," he said.
Kenya Power Managing Director Ben Chumo said that despite being unable to put a dollar figure on the benefits that would accrue from the Sh1 billion Boresha Umeme Viwandani initiative launched in April, "the call centre has recorded reduced number of complaints and power failure incidences since commencement of the project."
The upgrades carried out in Westlands, Parklands and Loresho over the weekend were only the most recent and would see 215 wooden poles replaced with concrete ones, 61 transformers refurbished and the Parklands substation undergo master repair works among other improvements.
So far, Chumo said, Kenya Power had spent Sh900 million of the Sh1 billion it had set aside to safeguard reliable power supply to industries and had carried out upgrades in the commercial hubs of Mombasa, Kisumu, Meru, Thika, Busia, Kitui, Bungoma and Namanga with Homabay, Eldoret, Nyeri, Nakuru and Kisii left.
Given 60 percent of its revenue comes from the one percent of its customers who are industries and SMEs, Chumo said they were also planning to dedicate 200 power lines to Nairobi's Industrial Area in order to ensure their biggest clients remained operational at all times. "Whenever we have a power outage or interruption of whatever nature they will have other sources of power."
The construction of a 24Km underground line from Embakassi to the substation near the Laico Regency hotel, Chumo said, would also begin in October to ensure a reliable supply of power to the Nairobi Central Business District.
Geo-thermal power, Chirchir restated, would have a more direct impact on the cost of electricity in benefits that would spill over to other areas ailing the economy.
"We had a breakfast meeting with our top 100 customer," Chirchir recounted, "and they confirmed to us that they would be willing to invest more in the country if the cost of power came down, translating to more jobs and less insecurity."
By 2016, the Kenyan government is looking at doubling the country's generation capacity to 5,000 MW and one of the ways it hopes to attain that goal is by exploiting the Rift Valley's geothermal resources.
Chirchir and Chumo were speaking at Stima Plaza on Sunday prior to carrying out an inspection of the works that were ongoing in Parklands, Westlands and Loresho.