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Unhappy Kenya consumers are bracing for higher electricity tariffs

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Consumers in Kenya are bracing for higher electricity tariffs following failed rains in the October-December 2016 season that saw water levels in hydropower generation dams fall considerably.

The tariffs, which rose in December last year, are expected to sustain the upward trend as the Meteorological Department forecasts that dry weather conditions will prevail in most parts of the country in the coming months.

"The average retail tariffs slightly increased in December due to increase in fuel cost charge occasioned by a rise in petrol thermal power in the energy mix by three percent.

"This was mainly due to low water levels at Sondu-Miriu and Seven Forks dams necessitating running of petrol based thermal power plants to cover the short-fall," said the Energy Regulatory Commission in a statement Friday.

Kenya in 2015 injected 280 megawatts (MW) of cheaper geothermal energy to the national grid, pushing up installed capacity from 1,765 MW in June 2013 to 2,327 MW in December 2016.

The increase had reduced the country’s reliance on expensive diesel generators, shifting the energy mix from 53 percent hydro, 25 percent thermal and 20 percent geothermal in 2013 to 41 percent hydro, 13 percent thermal and 40 percent geothermal in 2016.

The low level of water in hydropower plants has, however, affected generation from the source, prompting increased production from expensive thermal sources.

Last month, households that consumed 200 kilowatt hour (kWh) paid 34 U.S. dollars compared to 31 dollars in December 2012.

Fixed charge for domestic consumers during the month rose to 1.5 dollars from 1.2 dollars while the energy charge per kWh for those consuming above 50 units increased to 0.13 dollars from 0.08 dollars.

Analysts say a rise in electricity tariffs adds burden to consumers and sets them up for higher inflation, which now stands at 6.4 percent.

Already, Kenyans in the capital Nairobi and other urban centers are experiencing water shortages due to falling water levels in dams.

"Life is becoming tougher each day, the cost of transport, food items and education has gone up making things harder for people with large families like us.

"Last month I paid a bill of 40 dollars from 25 that I normally pay.

"While I blamed it on my five children who were home for holiday, it is now clear the higher tariffs were the major cause," banker Emmanuel Makuno, a Nairobi resident, said Friday.

The Ministry of Energy, however, has allayed fears of a rise in power tariffs in the coming months, saying the government is keen on lowering the tariffs.


Nairobi residents face short term water rationing during dry spell


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