Businesses were among the worst hit after a power outage hit most parts of Kenya on November 2, 2022. At the time of going to press, the ongoing blackout had lasted for four hours. Power outages were reported across counties including Nairobi, Machakos, Makueni, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kiambu and Busia.
State-owned utility Kenya Power blamed the outage on a technical fault. In a statement, Kenya Power stated that they were working to quickly resolve the issue.
Small businesses such as fast food joints, barbers, salons, electric repair shops and many more, which often lack backup systems, were unable to operate during the outage, costing them important earnings at a time when the cost of living in Kenya is worryingly high. Inflation hit a five-year high of 9.6% in October. The record-high costs of fuel, food and housing are eroding the spending power of many Kenyans.
Interestingly, the nationwide outage came days after the Senate Energy Committee launched a push for power generator KenGen to be allowed to sell electricity directly to consumers, a move that would end Kenya Power’s monopoly. The Senators, who also called for an audit of Kenya Power contracts with Independent Power Producers (IPPs), stated that the actions would result in more affordable energy for Kenyans.
“Usually I would be selling chips right now because it is lunch time but right now I’m not sure I’ll go home with something today,” Maina, a fast food operator along Nairobi’s Mbagathi Way told Business Today about his experience during the outage.
On social media, Kenya Power’s customer care channels struggled to keep up with the number of messages from Kenyans over the outage. Many online slammed the utility, revealing how the hours-long blackout had affected them.
Those working from home and buildings without backup generators also found themselves stranded and unable to work. It is further instructive to note that outages have been among the key drivers of a trend of industrial consumers – who represent Kenya Power’s largest customers – have been shifting to generating their own power, with many opting for solar.
Among industrial operations in Kenya which have invested solar include include Williamson Tea, which unveiled a 1MW solar farm in Changoi, aiming to slash its energy bills by a third. Kenya Breweries Limited expects to generate 9.3 Megawatts at its Ruaraka plant in Nairobi and 2.4 Megawatts from a solar plant in Kisumu while East African Maltings, on the other hand, plans to generate 2.2 Megawatts of electricity from a KVA generator at its Kampala Road plant. Others include Unilever Tea, Garden City Mall, Africa Logistics Properties (ALP) and London Distillers Ltd.
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