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Kenya Power customers suffer from Ksh 0.5 billion faulty prepaid meters

1st Phase Actaris prepaid meters , which work well
Kenya Power is a famous company in Kenya, one which draws what my colleagues in media will call "mixed reactions". While those in urban areas such as Nairobi regard Kenya Power as a very unreliable firm, I have heard of villages in rural areas where blackouts go unreported for even 3 days . To the rural people, recent electrification means that at least they get to get electricity for some days, which is better than no electricity.

In urban areas, the story is not any different. Around Imara Daima along Mombasa Road, power is mostly reliable, with blackouts been few in a week, and even at times been less than 10 in a month. In other places in the city, blackouts are a daily occurrence, and in some places, the blackouts are more than meals, counting two teas , breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Another aspect about Kenya Power is the prepaid meters, which like the firm, are equally loved and hated.

Ever since I became proud enough to start paying my own bills, I have used the Kenya Power prepaid meter. I like the convenience, you know when it is almost out and you have an idea of your usage. See with old postpaid meters, one has to wait for Kenya Power employees to come read your meter. In Naiorbi, most people lock their compounds throughout as a security measure - I once carried our shared padlock into the house and my neighbour rushed into my house saying that she suspected someone had stolen the padlock. I didn't ask why one would steal a padlock, especially without the key.

Back to the meter, once it is read, one then waits for the bill , which had to be mailed. Most people here do not own a post office box, after years of Post Office inefficiency, and had to share one with their church or employers. The bill, could be a shock, either quite high or low to less than ksh. 100.

For me, I now have the ability to buy my units before use, and monitor their usage. Brandname Actaris, my prepaid meter works pretty well.

A Conlog  Meter similar to
faulty meters that incorrectly bill
users. 
I therefore used to wonder why people kept complaining about Kenya PrePaid meters, until a friend moved to Thika Road. She too started complaining about errant prepaid meters, yet she had been using the same before without complaints. Another friend of mine who had been complaining about the same prepaid meters happened to live along Thika Road. I enquired from both and found that they use the Conlog brand of meters.

Actaris is manufactured by Itron, a US firm while Conlog is done by a South African firm which goes by the same name.

Their complaints are that their prepaid meters will at times, mostly after blackouts, show a negative balance from a previously positive one. In addition, the Conlog meters are inconsistent in metering, and during heavy usage such as ironing or using an electric heater (shower) will show a higher -than-actual-consumption of power.

I followed up the matter with a senior Kenya Power employee, who informed me that the meters had been installed in batches. The first trial had Actaris meters, which function as they are meant to an d like the old postpaid meters. After the first batch, Kenya Power switched to the Conlog brand of meters, which are responsible for almost all prepaid meter problems.

The Kenya Power employee informed me that the firm had changed several meters for its customers after complaints, but many remained with faulty meters. In addition, roll our of prepaid power meters has now being halted.

Kenya Power employees are aware of the issue with most of those who had Conlog meters in their homes switching to the Actaris brand.

Thousands of customers are however left with faulty meters, without the power firm offering any way forward on whether they would replace all the affected batch .

Conlog meters were supplied to Kenya Power at US $ 6 Million (about 0.5 billion Kenya shillings ) .

Why did Kenya Power switch from a reliable brand to a faulty one, and roll it out to thousands of customers?

Who will come to the rescue of the thousands of Kenya Power customers losing millions of shillings through faulty billing per day. Mind you , the customers can't switch back to their old, reliable meters.

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