By Sharon Atieno

With universal access to electricity being among the major calls for sustainable development goals, the first phase of Kenya’s ambitious goal of connecting households in rural and peri-urban areas to the national grid has borne fruit.

Kenya plans to connect 17 million households to the national grid by 2030, currently, about nine million are connected.

Through the African Development Bank (ADB) funding, phase one of the Kenya Last Mile Connectivity Project was able to connect about 530,000 households across 47 counties.

The connection which took place between 2015 and 2022 cost ADB about USD 131.82 million.

The aim of the project was to use the existing electricity infrastructure laid down by Kenya Power and Lightning (KPLC) to connect households and businesses located within a 600m radius of distribution transformers.

The Impact Evaluation of the first phase of the project by the bank conducted in six counties showed that the access to electricity through the national grid increased by 85% while the use of electricity for lighting increased by 83%.

More than 5,000 households were assessed in Baringo, Kakamega, Kericho, Kitui, Nakuru and Taita Taveta counties.

Eustace Uzor, Evaluation Officer, Independent Development Evaluation at the Bank said while giving a presentation on the assessment at an energy stakeholders’ round table in Nairobi.

Another benefit Uzor noted was that in beneficiary households, the probability of children studying at night increased by 45%.

Also, while the assessment showed that household-owned businesses connected to the grid rose by only 7%, use for agricultural activities such as irrigation went up by 17%.

Notably, the monthly average consumption expenditure went up by about USD 15.

Alemayehu Wubeshet-Zegeye, East Africa Regional Sector Manager, Power System Development at the Bank said that through the project, Kenya has become a role model for other countries in the region.

“The model used in Kenya was unique and ramped up the connection in very few years,” Wubeshet-Zegeye said, adding that the program was designed in a good way by subsidizing the connection charge.

He noted that reducing the charge from shs. 35,000 (about USD 267) to shs. 15,000 (USD 114) and allowing payment in three years installments encouraged rural households to apply for connection to get grid electricity.

KPLC was also pushing and expediting the implementation of the projects, Wubeshet-Zegeye said, adding that this was a good commitment from the government side who also put in place proper monitoring and evaluation of the project.

According to Eng. Joseph Oketch, Director, Electricity and Renewable Energy, Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority, besides increasing access, the last mile connectivity helped in loss reduction specifically, technical losses.

This has to do with infrastructure such as the loading of transformers and lines (the infrastructure was not being optimized leading to loss of power).

Kennedy Owino, Manager, Connectivity Projects, KPLC said that the project has supported a lot of grassroots development including the establishment of small industries in these areas. “It has greatly enhanced the well-being of Kenyans,” he said.

However, Owino noted that KPLC incurred losses during the extension of the network.

“With enhanced access, the network was extended. This leads to the issue of maintenance which has been a bit high,” he said, noting that this is being mitigated by the government through supporting KPLC to do reinforcement of the network so that the electricity supply can be reliable and reduce losses that occurred due to the network extension.

Currently, the last-mile connectivity project is entering its fourth phase with funding coming from different development partners including World Bank, European Union, European Investment Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) among others.