27 April 2016, Nairobi — Kenya Power is now placing transformers above live wires to curb their theft, which has exposed the utility to losses of hundreds of millions of shillings.
Geoffrey Kigen, the Kenya Power security chief, says the new strategy will deny vandals easy access to the power equipment.
Vandals eye toxic oil that is drawn from transformers and is allegedly used for frying food in roadside stalls while copper wires from the equipment are sold to fix motors and as scrap metal, which enters the global market and can end up as far away as India and China.
“We are trying to secure the transformers by placing them above live wires where vandals cannot access them,” said Mr. Kigen in a statement.
This is the latest in a string of initiatives by the utility to stop the theft of transformers, which is partly to blame for sudden blackouts.
The World Bank says Kenyans stay without power for 25 days a year, on average, due to blackouts. Kenya Power has also started mounting transformers in more inaccessible places, such as inside homes and much higher up on poles.
The utility has been mulling over building transformers that do not use oil. Such instruments are not widely used and cost about half as much as those that use oil.
In 2012, replacing transformers cost Kenya Power $4 million (Sh405 million).Kenya has had some success fighting transformer vandalism.
In 2013, 535 transformers were vandalised across the country, a stark drop from 898 in 2011, according to reports by Reuters quoting Kenya Power.
The drop was mainly linked to a 2012 law which imposed a minimum 10-year-jail sentence on transformer vandals. Previously vandals were fined Sh5,000 or sent to prison for six months.
A new Bill, sponsored by Interior secretary Joseph Nkaissery is an upgrade of the 2012 law and seeks vandals to be jailed for up to 30 years without the option of a fine.
*Gerald Andae – Daily Nation