Electricity House which is the Kenya Power head offices in a Picture taken on May 30, 2018. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG
The proposed changes to the Energy Act should not make Kenya Power lose a sense of its responsibility of providing reliable power to consumers.
The proposals allow the energy regulator to provide a transitional period when the blackout compensation rules will kick in.
Compensating consumers for long hours of disruptions of basic utilities is a global practice that should be adopted by the electricity distributor and other utility firms in the country.
For example, most European countries demand utilities to compensate users whose homes and businesses are cut off power supply for prolonged periods.
The proposed regulations that seek to compel the power utility to compensate consumers for financial losses after blackouts are intended to spur a faster response from the power utility in the event of outages and should not be viewed as a punishment for the loss-making firm.
In Kenya, supply shortfalls from the electricity utility’s ageing infrastructure have forced most businesses and wealthy customers to have standby generators.
Currently, Kenya Power offers compensation for injuries and damaged kits but does not pay domestic and business customers for financial loss resulting from being left without electricity.
The power distributor must move with speed to upgrade its systems and provide for redundancies to cushion customers who suffer the most during long hours without electricity.
The push to upgrade systems at the electricity firm has been there for a while but with very little progress, forcing consumers to depend on decades-old transmission lines which are unreliable.
Lawmakers and regulatory authorities should ensure that Kenya Power modernises its grids during the grace period provided for under the proposed law, including achieving the so-called N-1 Grid Reliability status.
In addition, modernising the company’s distribution lines will help reduce systems losses which are above the global average.