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Small consumers hit harder as electricity cost rises in Kenya

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Small power consumers in Kenya have been hit harder by the rising cost of electricity as the east African nation grapples with power production following erratic rains.

Due to low water levels, Kenya is mulling closing some hydropower dams that have generated power for years.

As a result, the country would rely more on geothermal power production increase output from expensive thermal sources, heaping pressure on small consumers.

The cost of electricity has already hit an all-time high, with those using some 50 kilowatts per hour (KWh) a month experiencing the steepest price surge.

Latest data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that in January, families that consumed 50KWh paid 6.8 U.S. dollars, up from 6.6 dollars in December.

However, in January 2017, families consuming 50KWh of electricity a month paid 5.5 dollars, meaning the cost has risen by 22.1 percent over the same period.

On the other hand, middle-income families that consumed 200KWh in January paid 40 dollars, up from 35 dollars a year ago, a 14 percent hike.

"I have been forced to stop using gadgets like electric heaters and even iron boxes ... to try and manage my electricity bill," George Osundwa, a father of two living on the east of Nairobi, said on Friday.

Osundwa, a furniture trader, said his bill in January stood at 16 dollars, up from the usual 12 dollars.

"There were complaints of the power utility company issuing inflated bills due to change in billing system, and affected consumers were supposed to take their complaints to the firm for resolution, but I could not because I am a prepaid customer," he said.

The surge in power bills in January for most consumers was attributed to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) raising the forex and fuel levies segment of power bills.

Forex levy rose to a high of 0.01 dollars. The forex levy segment caters for foreign currency costs that include loans that power producers have.

On Tuesday, Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter announced that the government may close Masinga Dam in the next two weeks if it does not rain.

"If it does not rain, the government would shut down the dam because water levels are too low to allow continued production of power," said Keter.

Kenya is currently generating about 200 million KWh of electricity from hydro sources each month, according to ERC data.

From geothermal power, the east African nation is producing some 400 million KWh of electricity every month, with the source which is cheaper remaining stable.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, noted that electricity prices have a direct effect on inflation, which is expected to rise in coming months.

At the end of January, Kenya’s inflation stood at 4.83 percent, up from 4.50 percent in December.



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