The Kenya Power IT system collapsed one more time this weekend, causing untold pain and losses to households and businesses that rely on electricity.
The system failure started with the prepaid system and the contact centre on Sunday. By Monday, it had spread to the entire system affecting token purchases, bill payments, banking hall operations and other transactions.
The IT system is the backbone of all other transactions at the monopoly and when it fails, nothing moves.
This saw thousands of consumers unable to buy tokens through the pay bill number 888880 as the “organisation receiving the payment was unavailable”.
And those who paid, the tokens were not vending, keeping them in darkness. The firm said the vending of tokens remained slow due to a high number of customer transactions. Kenya Power said it was addressing the system failure that has affected its business operations since Sunday evening.
“The hitch is preventing customer transactions including bill queries, token purchases and payment of bills,” Kenya Power said in a statement yesterday.
The utility company said the system failure also affected customer interactions via Contact Centre telephone line 97771, *977#, social media channels and banking hall operations.
But consumers and energy activists wondered what the connection between the vending system and the customer care lines was given that every time one collapses the other is also unavailable. “I am still trying to find out the connection between the prepaid system and call centre. How are they related that every time (the) prepaid system is down, the call centre is also down,” Ms Jerotich Seii said in a tweet.
The company said it resumed critical business operations from 1pm yesterday. It said customers could purchase prepaid tokens and make postpaid payments.
“We are still sending out tokens that were delayed by the service interruption,” the firm said.
But it had not been able to resolve the challenges affecting its banking hall operations as well as access to its contact centre by the time of going to press.
A day of system outage comes with a huge economic cost to businesses that rely on electricity to function from barbershops to big manufacturing outlets.
In the past two years, the utility provider has been hit by several glitches.
Last year, Kenyans woke up to a countrywide power outage following a fault in Kenya Power’s main supply line. The May 9 blackout started at 5:49am and affected operations in major hospitals, including the Kenyatta National Hospital and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
The frequent power blackouts and system outages have seen many businesses install standby generators for use during supply cut-offs, raising their operating costs.
Power outages have in the past been blamed on vandalism and an old power distribution infrastructure that is currently being upgraded.
It is also behind the current switch to solar energy that has seen a number of businesses and heavy power consuming industrialists turn to alternative energy sources to cut over reliance on the national grid.
This has further put pressure on the company, which is experiencing major dips in profitability.
Kenya Power said in a recent interview that some of its industrial customers — who account for about 54.8 per cent of its sales revenues — are gradually shifting to own-generated solar power.
Some of the companies and institutions that have solar plants include Africa Logistics Properties (ALP), Mombasa International Airport and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe).
Nairobi’s Garden City Mall set up a solar carport to generate 1,256 megawatt hours annually from the 3,300 solar panels installed on the topmost car park shade, projecting that this would help it cut power bills by about Sh31.6 million annually.
London Distillers Ltd also installed a roof solar system in Athi River, helping it offset the need for grid energy and save at least Sh18.4 million annually over the system lifespan of 25 years.
Others are Williamson Tea, Kenyatta University and Total Kenya, which has installed solar systems to more than 107 service stations in Kenya.