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Kenya power launches Sh340 million live-line laboratory

Kenya Power yesterday launched a Live-Line Laboratory, set up at a cost of Sh.340 million, making it the first utility organization in the East and Central Africa to establish such a facility.

The laboratory will be used to test and certify equipment that are used in the Live-Line Maintenance Programme, which the Company launched in October 2019.

The Live-Line technology enables the Company to carry out repairs and maintenance on high and medium voltage lines, without switching off customers.

The laboratory was funded by the World Bank under the Kenya Electricity Modernization Project.

The money is part of a total of Sh.2 billion funding that the company received from the World Bank towards the Live-Line Maintenance Project.

Kenya Power’s Ag. Managing Director and CEO, Eng. Geoffrey Muli, said that the laboratory will enable the Company to test and certify Live-Line work tools and equipment and realise savings in terms of payment for the services which were previously outsourced

“Additionally, it will boost efficiency within the Live-Line Maintenance Programme, as these services are now within our control,” said Eng. Muli.

Apart from testing and certification of Live-Line equipment and tools, the MD said that the Company intends to expand the scope of the laboratory in the medium term, to include insulation verification tests and certifications for other network equipment.

“Plans are also underway to get the laboratory accredited by the Kenya Accreditation Services, to enable it to test rubber insulating equipment for other organizations within the country and the region, on a commercial basis,” he added.

According to Kenya Power, the laboratory will significantly contribute to the gains associated with the Live-Line Programme, such as reduction in unserved energy and improved customer satisfaction.

“Through the Live-Line technology, new premium customers are being connected to the network without waiting for a shutdown, which is a double gain in that the customers are brought on board, as soon as they are ready and we are able to meet our service charter timelines for customer connections,” said Eng. Muli.

Being a critical component of the Company to ensure reliability of electricity, the MD noted, the Live-Line programme allows maintenance of high and medium voltage network, without switching-off customers.

Eng. Muli revealed that Live-Line team currently comprises of 216 staff spread across all regions within the country and 35 trucks. The teams are currently doing an average of 2,800 live work hours per month, which translates into 36,600 live work hours annually.

He added that a typical 5-hour shutdown on a line carrying 200 Amps costs the Company Sh. 250,000 in lost opportunity to sell electricity.

The 35 Live-Line teams spread across the country are able to work on at least two locations in a week that would have required an outage resulting in a minimum saving on revenue loss of Sh.17.5 million per week and Sh.1 billion annually.

Apart from the laboratory, the funding that Kenya power got was also utilized to purchase Live-Line tools, equipment and insulated trucks as well as to train and certify staff to join the Live Line teams.

Prior to establishment of the laboratory, the Company paid Sh.36 million annually to test the Live-Line equipment. Live-Line tools such as rubber gloves, link sticks, line hose tester and insulating blankets are required to be tested every six months or when need arises while the trucks are tested annually to ensure safety of staff using them.

Kenya Power is the country’s only electricity off taker that transmits, distributes and retails power to customers throughout Kenya.

From 1922 to date, Kenya Power has extended its transmission and distribution network across the country, covering a total of 248,834 kilometres.

As at June 2021, the Company had over 8.5 million accounts and had enabled 75 per cent  of the country’s population to access the national grid, making Kenya rank top in the world in terms of connectivity pace according to the World Bank’s ‘Energy Progress Report’ for 2021.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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