Kenya’s energy minister, Ochilo Ayako, has announced that the Kenyan electricity grid will be connected to the South African power pool by May 2004, giving Kenya access to 400 MWe.

However, it has been reported by the Daily Champion that there is a maintenance crisis within Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), and that it is unlikely that it will be able to meet its target of connecting

150 000 customers a year to the national power grid. The first 150 000 new customers were due to have been connected by June 2004, but apparently even routine maintenance work has ground to a halt owing to a shortage of critical materiel.

Power outages are becoming increasingly common in some major citiies. Ayacko has acknowledged the problem, but said: “Procurement is just the current excuse. The problem would have occurred anyway, given the fact that power lines have not been replaced in 14 years.” KPLC has a current supply surplus, estimated at about 300MWe. The power outages are not related to bulk supply levels.

The supply situation has resulted in the expensive Westmount Power contract being allowed to lapse, and increased consumption of cheap KenGen hydropower, resulting in a fall in fuel costs. Renegotiations are also taking place with other IPPs.

Ayacko said KPLC requires $240 million to set up a revolving fund to achieve the connection targets and improve quality and efficiency. KPLC has already done the necessary mapping and groundwork on the potential customers. Sources told the Daily Champion that if the necessary equipment starts to arrive, the target can be easily achieved.

However, the problem at KPLC is not limited to logistics. Staff morale appears to be low, as a result of a restructuring programme supported by the World Bank. Hundreds of employees of KPLC have lost their jobs.