Reliable and Sustainable energy

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As the government is trying to boost clean energy consumption to 65% from the former 15%, access to electricity is still a night mare to almost 80% wards in turkana county. At the urban centers the energy consumption is projected as 22% those using petroleum while only 9% can access on-grid electricity yet the rest can not completely access to any of the sources of energy. Even though the government is still striving to ensure over 70% access to on grid electricity by the year 2022, some wards are still relying on diesel-ran engine generators.

For instance, looking at Kakuma ward, turkana west constituency headquarters was once a dark town before the onset of Kenya Power in 2018. The energy distribution was operated by at least 6 private sectors entrepreneurs who owned generators. They transmitted, distributed and retailed power through cables originating from the main generators direct to the 5% consumers who could afford out of over 250 000 households. They had foot soldiers who ensured that distribution and revenue collection was conducted smoothly and in orderly manner.  

Consumer pricing was monopolized by the few based on the number of appliances owned by the client which was physically confirmed by the revenue collectors done on a daily basis. For instance, a household with lights only would cough $5 (ksh. 50) per day translating to $15(ksh.1500) per month and take his/her phone to charging vendors paying $2(ksh.20) per phone and would not be able to use a television while a household with lights and a socket would pay $10 (ksh. 100) daily which translates to $30(ksh.3000) on a monthly basis but of course able to use a television. On the other hand, those who used the energy for income generation could pay $30 per day and the small businesses could pay $20. For example, we approached Freddy one of the small business owner running a Kinyozi and phone charging shop and this is what he had to say, “I used to pay ksh. 250 every evening to stay connected to the power supply whether I had used the electricity or not. In a day could get ksh. 700 or ksh. 1000 and remit ksh. 250 for electricity and in a bad day I had to dig into my savings to pay for the electricity which I did not use.” But when asked what was his feeling after being installed with electricity from Kenya Power, he stated that it was very cheap paying for the on-grid power as compared to the generators since he could only pay for what he had used. For the On-grid power they are paying approximately $50 for small scale business enterprises and approximately $20 per month on households which was almost equal to the daily charges when connected to generators.

The generators were opened from 9a.m and shortly closed at 12noon which was re-opened at around 3pm and switched of at 11pm. According to Freddy the whole of Kakuma town was always in abject blackout from midnight to dawn which didn’t make sense for a renowned town like Kakuma. To him, now that there is an on-grid connection more jobs have been created empowering the youths by promoting entrepreneurship and stimulated self-reliance.

For any developing town like Kakuma good infrastructure and ease of access to a sustainable source of energy stimulates a robust market ecosystem which in turn improves the livelihood of the people living within. The onset of the on-grid electricity over the last two years has acted as the impetus and a turning point for economic growth in Kakuma and Kalobeyei settlement. The government in cohesion with other NGOs have worked in tandem to ensure that KPLC is working round the clock to sustainably meet the energy needs of the host communities and the refugees in the Kalobeyei settlement in order to promote private sectors to invest in the region so as to boost the living standards of the host community and the refugees in the schemes.

As the government of Kenya is working tooth and nail chasing on the global goal of ensuring that access to clean energy, reliable and sustainable energy as a mission to alleviate poverty, the stakeholders ought to play along. The energy should be reliable and affordable to low-income earners. For example, basing on economic growth index recorded within two years after Kenya Power installations, Kakuma and Kalobeyei settlement scheme have seen more small-scale businesses opened and those previously existing expanded which is a milestone towards development. These includes the internet cafes, mobile phone vendors, sellers of produce, goat meat eateries and clothing shops, and services from bike repair to sewing opened of late. This means that within three years the economic thresh hold would be higher as compared to now.

According to UNDP paper published in 2008, It stated clearly that access to modern energy services was fundamental to fulfilling the basic social needs, driving economic growth and fueling human development. This is because energy services have an effect on productivity, health, education, safe water and communication services. Electricity services are among the pre-requisite necessities for improving health and education, better access to information and agricultural productivity. Furthermore, the way in which energy is generated, distributed and consumed affects the local, regional and global environment with serious implications for poor people’s livelihood strategies and human development prospects. Modern energy is fundamental to fulfilling the basic social needs, fueling human development. This is clear since energy services has always had positive effect on productivity, health, education, safe water and communication services.

As discussed earlier looking at what a sustainable energy accessibility would do to a developing region like Turkana. It is regrettable that the energy sector in the County has failed us. It has been more than a week now since the dawn of blackouts in Kakuma. Businesses had seen a brighter future with the cheap energy from Kenya power but it seems that it is now dimmed to be unreliable. A week of on and off serves a great ordeal and a blow to the businesses like those using refrigerators to handle perishable goods, welding services, cyber cafes and phone charging shops. The business communities in kakuma are crying foul as the trend is unbecoming and unfavorable to their survival. This should be rectified as soon as possible.

Now that the private sectors had already slammed their doors shut, KPLC should look for an alternative to instill faith back to Kakuma energy consumers by providing a reliable and sustainable on grid electricity. If not then the government should provide a favorable business environment for private sectors dealing with solar powered appliances to provide this vital utility to the public. Power rationing might be the only alternative for Kenya Power, yet not the solution that the people of kakuma seek.

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