One month ago, on 23rd October 2013, the Daily Nation in its DN2 pullout ran an article on ways Kenya Power Prepaid Meters have helped tenants resolve the common tenant-landlord wrangles on power bills. The story that can be found at “Prepay meters help end landlord-tenant electricity wrangles” narrates on issues such as tenants not being worried of unpaid bills by previous tenants, electricity deposit issues that landlords hardly refund, power cut by either landlords or Kenya Power due to unpaid electricity bills, as some of those that the Kenya Power prepaid meters have helped solve. Very valid points that would make anyone rush into the Kenya Power PrePaid meters. Then a follow up article sprung up.
One month later, yesterday to be precise, the Daily Nation ran the article “Prepaid meters tame high power bills“. This latest article narrates a story of a Ms Frida Munene who claims that her power bills have reduced from $24 to $14 (Kshs 2040 to Ksh 1190) a month. These figures tell us the Ms Frida Munene has been enabled by the Prepaid meters to cut down her power consumption by 42%.
How would Kenya Power PrePaid meters reduce electricity bills? Two scenarios: 1. Either by enabling electricity user to be more careful on her power consumption or 2. The Prepaid meters are billed at a cheaper rate.
If the latter factor could be the reason for the 42% savings reported by Ms Munene, and having in mind that PrePaid meters have been around for more than two years, then I bet almost 100% of Nairobians could have enrolled to the prepaid meters resulting from the Swahili saying “Chema chajiuza, kibaya chajitembeza”. On the contrary, ONLY 14% of the 2.1 million Kenya Power customers are on PrePaid meters! We therefore rule out any possibility that PrePaid meters have cheaper charges per unit of electricity.
So it means carefulness with electricity consumption is the contributing factor to Ms. Munene’s savings. The only reason someone would be more careful with PrePaid billing is if the credit or tokens bought run out faster than anticipated; meaning a higher pricing for each unit of electricity consumed; hence forcing consumers to be more careful on their power consumption. But would be the savings from being careful with electricity consumption while on PrePaid meters be any different from the savings from being careful with electricity consumption while on PostPaid meters? Since Daily Nation only provides us with data from one consumer, I will compare the results from data from only one PosPaid consumer – myself.
I started paying for electricity bills on my own meter in December 2009. My average consumption was Kshs 600, went to Kshs 850 after buying a few other electricity consuming gadgets, and by January and February 2011 my bills soared to Kshs 2,200; the only change is that I bought a bigger TV set. After doing a number of back and forth calculations I rationalized that my bills were not inflated but indeed the TV set was consuming the extra power. To reduce the usage, I restricted the number of hours the TV can be on from 16 hours to 4 hours, changed all the lights to energy saver and removed the security lights. In subsequent months my electricity bill has been averaging between Kshs 650 and Kshs 950 depending on 1. pricing changes by Kenya Power and 2. The number of hours the TV is on each month. My savings from being too careful with electricity is thus between 57 and 70%; at least 15% more than the savings experienced by Ms Frida Munene.
I have another story to tell, now from a friend who is on PrePaid meter and who, ever since he started paying electricity bills, has been extremely careful with power consumption. The dude switches off his power appliances including the LED lights on the power extension cables before switching off the main switch in the house. I asked him why he doesn’t just switch off his lights from the meter instead. He said that a neighbor could switch it on by mistake.
His story is that he had been paying less than Kshs 500 each month on electricity while on PostPaid meter. After enrolling to the PrePaid meter, he realized that he consumes Kshs 350 every two weeks so in a month his consumption generally goes higher than Kshs 700, 40% higher than his initial consumption on PostPaid meter. His appliances have not changed, time indoors has reduced as he no longer goes home at 7pm but at 10pm since he has to attend evening classes, and he is never at home during the weekend day time hours to watch movies and listen to music as he has to finish any pending works in the office. Tam-Tam, a commenter on latest Daily Nation article on Kenya PrePaid Meters, seem to agree. He says;
No……No…….No! what I use to pay on postpay meter is less than what I am paying now with prepay meter!! KPLC chang the charges on their server without informing. I use to pay 2,000 per month now I pay 4,000 with the prepay meter.
I say to Daily Nation, no, Kenya Power PrePaid meters have not tamed high power bills but have rather increased them. If it were true that the bills have been tamed, we could not be talking of 14% Prepaid meters penetration in Nairobi after two years. Who doesn’t want to save on electricity bill? No one.
What I like about your article is the fact that it acknowledges the power bill inflation by Kenya Power. How much does Kenya Power rob Kenyans per year in inflated bills? Does the inflation have anything to do with the soaring Kenya Power profits even in years they complained of high fuel costs and drought?