By: Abdiaziz Mohamed Farah
We are all aware that in this age and time, uninterrupted power suppy has a significant impact on the economic and social development of an area. Without electricity, businesses cannot operate effectively, and residents may not have access to vital services such as healthcare and education.
Electricity in any given area is good when it is affordable and sufficiently abundant.
In the last decade, the people of Wajir town have been complaining about Kenya Power and Lightning Company (KPLC) for not providing enough electricity to the overgrown town. Such complaints were sometimes lodged in a high profile office and persons. For example, the Former Wajir East MP Mr Rashid Kassim 2019 said: “… they (the leaders)had continuously engaged the President to honour his earlier pledge of linking the area to the national grid”.
“The President is fully aware of the challenges of the town. One of the key legacies he wants to leave behind other than finalising the grid for Garissa is to have a grid for Wajir before the end of his term. I am quite optimistic that will be achieved.”
On 4th June, just hours after protest by frustrated Wajir residents over constant week-long power outages, two MPs—Adan Daud (Wajir East) and Ibrahim Saney (North)—pledged to "bring a new generator to remedy the situation." Ten days later, the townsfolk are still languishing… pic.twitter.com/ELRtfgWw6U
— Kulan Post (@kulanpost) June 12, 2023
He made this statement after engineers repaired engines with a total output of 2600-2700KW. The general manager in charge of all off-grid stations, Charles Kapsoi, led his team to repair One Geneset (ABC) that had since stalled. He said the repairs will provide a backup in case of a fault on any of the three engines. However, the result was more blackout and despair.
in this year, the elected members of parliament frequently visited the Cabinet Secretary for Energy CS to seek solutions. They returned with positive feedback and KPLC immediately brought an old Genset that failed to work, again. Then frustrated locals staged demonstration that rocked the KPLC compound in Wajir town. As a result, a teenager died from gun-related injuries.
KPLC has the capacity to address the shortage of power in small towns with a population of 120,000. But the organization is affected by moral deficit and a sense of monopoly in electrical service provision.
KPLC can address the problem by drawing a national grid from Garissa Town (300 km). KenGen can buy cheap electricity from Ethiopia (280 km). More practically, the creation of a hybrid system that uses both solar panels and fossil fuel is feasible in this area that has plenty of sunshine. Electrictiricy in Kenya remains highly centralized with KPLC as the only off-taker, retailer and main distributor and KenGen as the main producer.
Amnesty International lauds Kulan Post for "holding those in power accountable." pic.twitter.com/qlT01jMZy5
— Kulan Post (@kulanpost) May 22, 2023
The Role of Private Sector and County Government.
The New Constitution established energy as a shared mandate between national and County governments, but the mandates are not clearly demarcated. According to the Energy Act, each county shall develop a county energy plan as the basis for the integrated national energy plan. County electrification offices were supposed to be opened in every County since it’s a joint function.
On the basis of the above discussion, the County Government of Wajir has to move very fast to create an Independent Power Producer (IPP) that plays the role of both producer and distributor in Wajir Town. The Young men and women who graduated from Wajir Polytechnic can be assigned to carry out such noble work.
According to the Energy Act, the County government can carry out local energy planning and can implement its own projects with county funding. Private sector actors play an important role by providing off-grid solutions especially where KPLC service is not reliable.
This seems to be the only possible strategy to liberate ourselves from marginalization and zero public participation in KPLC-poor projects. Electrical engineers, as opposed to sociologists, do not know how to engage the public in project implementation.
Finally, our condolences go to the family of the young boy who died as a result of bullet injuries during the peaceful demonstration against KPLC’s poor services in Wajir town.