Kenya is a developing country with grand ambitions. With ‘Vision 2030’ Kenya aims to improve quality of life by tackling three “pillars” – economic, social, and political. Central to all of these themes is investment in infrastructure. It is here were progress has been hindered by non-technical electrical losses. This is because electricity is the main driving force behind the flagship projects to transform Kenya into a highly industrialized country. Unfortunately, the most likely areas to experience energy theft are the ones that need it most– informal settlements and marginalized areas–leaving the goals of Vision 2030 in limbo.
High electric costs
High electrical connection, installation and running costs are a luxury many can’t afford, especially in the slums and other marginalized areas.
Debt has pushed people to energy theft. There is a lucrative underground market for stolen electrical products in the country. Individuals with no other source of income see power theft as an easy remedy.
Most of the thefts occur due to the presence of corrupt employees who work in tandem with the other perpetrators. Employees have even provided information on how carry out power theft.
Reduced electricity distribution
Electricity is poorly distributed in marginalized areas. This is mostly due to the fact that most the people living in these areas can’t afford to pay for electricity thus the lighting company sees these areas as not economically viable. Currently, only 6% of Kenyans living in the countryside have access to electricity.
The main perpetrators are Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) employees, unscrupulous traders who aim at maximizing profits through non-payment of electrical bills. Misguided drug addicts who sniff the transformer fuse powder also get caught up in the energy theft trade.
CONSEQUENCES TO INDIVIDUAL
The leading cause of infernos in informal settlements in Kenya today is caused by energy pilferage. Most residents of informal settlements have little or no electrical know how, so directly taping of electricity using poorly insulated materials causes short-circuits and leads to fires. The fact that most of the homes are made of iron sheets makes matters worse.
Electrocution is a first occurrence during theft, and has adverse consequences. These may include electrical burns, blunt trauma, central nervous system failure, and thrombosis. In the worst case scenario, death occurs.
Electrical theft offenders in Kenya are fined up to ten million Kenya shillings. Failure to pay can result in imprisonment.
CONSEQUENCES TO COUNTRY
- Monetary losses to the country through the state-owned transmission company. In six months, Kenya Power lost over 10 billion Kenyan Shillings due to energy theft and leakages.
- Delayed realization of the country’s economic ambitions of the Vision 2030
- Fires in slums cause the destruction of property and loss of many lives.
HOW TO PREVENT ENERGY THEFT
The KPLC employed the following measures to reduce energy theft:
- To reduce energy theft among the poor, electricity connection costs have been reduced
- KPLC introduced outdoor metering to prevent tampering of distribution meters to falsify their readings.
- The company has collaborated with another government utility, REA (Rural Electrification Authority) to curb theft arising from poor electrical distribution.
Other measures the government can take
- Educating the people would help sensitize them on the consequences of energy theft.
- Imposing stiff penalties. This would ensure that the offenders are punished severely thus discouraging future attempts.
Gains from energy theft in Kenya are so minor compared to the dire consequences involved. The stakes are too high and have catastrophic consequences for both the individual and the country.