CS opposes Bill requiring Kenya Power to compensate customers

Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter has asked MPs to shoot down a Bill requiring Kenya Power to compensate customers that suffer power outages for more than three hours.

He said the Bill is ambiguous because it fails to specify the circumstances under which Kenya Power should compensate customers on outage.

The proposed law was sponsored by Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir in the wake of frequent blackouts that have forced businesses to install standby diesel-run generators.

“We have given our reservations to the National Assembly and the Senate about the Bill. There are many factors that can cause power blackouts and so there is a need for clarity on what qualifies for compensation,” CS Keter said yesterday at press briefing in his office yesterday.

The country, for instance, was on Saturday hit by a five-hour blackout that crippled businesses and inconvenienced homes. A similar outage happened in June.

The Bill is now set to go to mediation process that may or may not rescue Kenya Power from liability. The proposed law is intended to spur a faster response from the power utility in the event of outages. “A licensee shall be liable to compensate a consumer due to power outages or surges that exceed a cumulative three hours within a 24-hour period,” reads part of the Bill. “Where a consumer incurs financial loss, the licensee shall compensate the consumer by incorporating the compensation into the consumer’s bill by way of a subsidy which shall, be an equivalent amount to the loss incurred as presented by the consumer and agreed by the licensee,” it adds. According to the bill, those who suffer physical injuries will be offered compensation determined by the court.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) last year said that Kenyan households and factories are plunged into darkness for an average of 25 days every year due to blackouts.

Kenyan homes and industries experience more than 600 hours of outages per annum compared to 120 hours or five days per year in South Africa, according to IEA’s report titled Africa Energy Outlook 2014.

Kenya Power plans is spending billions of shillings to upgrade its transmission network and curb the blackouts as the country prepares to add 5,000 megawatts (MW) to the existing 2, 298 MW of generation capacity by 2017.

The Energy ministry expects the Suswa- Isinya-Embakasi transmission line to be complete by November to reinforce the system and transport cheaper geothermal energy from Olkaria fields in Naivasha. The line will be connected to Mombasa-Nairobi line set for completion by December. This is expected to rid the Coast of expensive diesel-fired power.

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