Kenya Power plans using fibre glass poles to reduce cost
The above photos shows one Kenya Power technician repairs power lines. The company connected 292,337 new customers last year to lift its customer base to 2.3 million. Photo/FILE A KENYA POWER TECHNICIAN REPAIRS POWER LINES. THE COMPANY CONNECTED 292,337 NEW CUSTOMERS LAST YEAR TO LIFT ITS CUSTOMER BASE TO 2.3 MILLION.
Kenya Power plans to roll-out fibre glass poles to reduce electricity transmission costs, fast-track connections to households and reduce the cost on timber poles.
The listed power vendor says the poles are stronger, lighter, more durable and sturdy enough to withstand rugged terrain compared to concrete and traditional wooden poles.
Kenya Power said the poles—made from silica sand, limestone, soda ash and plastic — are impervious to rot, pests and require zero maintenance, which will have positive impact on electricity supply costs.
The company argues that even though fibreglass poles are more expensive than current alternatives, they have a life span of more than 80 years — one-third longer than concrete poles and more than three times that of wooden poles’ average of 25 years.
“Fibreglass poles are ideal in salty, swampy, hilly places and require zero maintenance. They are lighter and do not require heavy machinery to erect, making them ideal for areas that are hard to access,” said Ben Chumo, chief executive at Kenya Power.
“Despite their initial high cost, fibre glass poles can reduce power outages by providing support during adverse weather that usually causes wooden poles to break or lean.”
The utility firm, 50.1 per cent owned by the government, is currently testing the variety after receiving samples from Duratel, a Chicago-based maker of utility poles and power transmission structures.
Dr Chumo said the economy associated with fibreglass poles will help check transmission and distribution costs which grew 7.3 per cent to hit Sh21.1 billion in the year to June 2013.
Kenya Power said the poles will complement the on-going process to partly replace wooden poles with concrete poles which began in 2011, as a strategy to connect more households at a cheaper cost.
READ: Kenya Power steps up concrete poles scheme
The fibreglass poles are also environment friendly given that they can be recycled at the end of their lifespan. The electricity distributor said that poles make up the biggest cost in power supply and accused wooden pole merchants of manipulating prices.
This saw Kenya Power double connection charges in January last year to cover for the additional cost in labour and materials, before the government stepped in with a Sh2.7 billion subsidy in August to theoretically keep the fees at Sh34,980 for a single phase, and Sh49,080 for a three phase user.
“The wooden poles market is crowded by suppliers and the shift to alternative poles will lower the price to at least Sh8,000 per 10-metre pole,” said Dr Chumo in an interview.
Kenya Power says all new transmission lines will use concrete poles and limit wooden poles to domestic connections.
A 10-metre timber pole currently costs about Sh12,000 while a similar sized concrete pole retails at Sh18,000.
The company connected an additional 292,337 new customers last year to lift its customer base to 2.3 million as at June 2013, representing a more than threefold growth from 686,195 users in 2004.
Kenya Power posted a 5.7 per cent drop in net profit to Sh4.3 billion in the year to June — and failed to declare dividend for the first time in a decade — after it borrowed heavily to connect households.
The power distributor says it needs Sh156 billion over the next five years to improve reliability of power supply by revamping its aged grid, reducing system losses and creating capacity for new power connections.