Kenya power makes a U-turn and go back to wooden poles, local commercial tree growers now eye a windfall

Kenya power makes a U-turn and go back to wooden poles. (dreamstime)
  • Kenya Power is now seeking 76,657 treated wooden poles from local firms at an undisclosed cost. 
  • The State utility company had initially moved to phase wooden poles citing a shorter lifespan and substandard therefore, more expensive over time compared to concrete poles.
  • In Kenya, wooden poles have been in use since 1922 and with time become a lifeline to thousands of farmers who would grow the trees and later sell them to Kenya Power.

Kenyan farmers and commercial tree growers are happy lot after Electricity distributor Kenya Power made a U turn in its earlier directive and is now looking to fill their pockets with money.

The struggling power company is now seeking 76,657 treated wooden poles from local firms at an undisclosed cost to coMarking a departure from its plan to phase out wooden poles in favour of concrete types, Kenya Powernnect more consumers to the national grid.

“The Kenya Power & Lighting Company Plc invites bids from eligible tenderers for supply of treated wooden poles. Interested eligible tenderers may obtain further information from the general manager, supply chain,” Kenya Power said.

The state agency hopes to use the poles to replace ageing poles as well as connect more Kenyans to the national grid, offering a windfall to farmers who have embraced agroforestry.

The utility firm has restricted the tender to local manufactures of wooden poles with outstanding order balance of less than 50 percent of ongoing contracts with the power monopoly firm.

“Exclusive preference shall firstly be given to citizen contractors where the amount of the tender as evaluated is below Sh500 million in respect of works, goods and services,” said Kenya Power.

The poles will be supplied in four lots of 49,566 poles, 6,289 poles, 4,412 poles, 160 poles and 16,230 poles with height ranging between 10 and 18 metres. While Kenya Power did not disclose the budget for this tender, in 2013, it was paying Sh8,000 for a 10 metre pole, Sh10,000 (11 meters) and Sh12,000 (12 metres).

In Kenya, wooden poles have been in use since 1922 and with time become a lifeline to thousands of farmers who would grow the trees and later sell them to Kenya Power. A study by Engineering Data Management found that the assumed service life of a treated wooden pole greatly understates its actual life.

A shorter lifespan and therefore, more expensive over time and substandard are some of the reasons Kenya Power dumped the wooden poles in favor of concrete poles.

Critics however poked holes in this narrative by pointing out that the lifespan of a well-done concrete pole is 50 years, while that of a treated wooden pole is 40 years.

But the price of a concrete pole is between Sh18,000 and Sh20,000 against Sh10,000 and Sh12,000 for wooden poles.

Concrete poles are, thus, 40 per cent more expensive. Concrete poles had also another catch, environmentalists feared it could lead to over mining of the sand to use to make the poles.

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