Prepaid Electricity in Kenya

Kenya Power & Lighting Company (KPLC), the national distributor of electricity is converting customers in many parts of the country from post-use billing and payment to a (prepaid) pre-usage payment.

One KPLC challenge for many years has been revenue collection, but that has changed since signed they signed up banks and supermarkets like Uchumi (some at a cost of ~ Kshs 50 per bill paid) and other outlets where customers can pay.


Payment: You can buy electricity tokens from some KPLC offices, but it is easier to pay by mobile money Safaricom’s ‘M-Pesa’ or ‘Airtel Money’ zap. You load money into M-Pesa, send it to KPLC, and in about an hour you get a 20 21-digit number that you punch into the meter for an immediate update of electricity credits.

Prepaid electricity unit installation.

Orientation: None at all! One day you come home and find workmen in the corridor doing a lot of re-wiring (at first I thought the landlord was installing fibre to the block, but it turned out to be KPLC’s sub-contractors) and the next day, you come home and find the watchman with a booklet for you to read and study on the pre-pay system! The booklet has been quite useful, but it omitted a process where you have to call KPLC to link your old meter and new meter numbers – in order to activate the new meter.

Cost: None to the customer, and the brochures say the cost of usage should be the same, and so far I’m on par at about Kshs 500 ($6) per week.

The meter also has some commands that you can use to check out your usage at any given time (a fluctuating 80W) and usage since installation – 100Kwh in three weeks. What I miss (for tracking inflation is a breakdown of usage, fuel surcharges and other taxes that form anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of every bill, and

  • [edit] cost of collection which may vary from Airtel to Safaricom) i.e it cost Kshs 20 to pay by M-Pesa
  • In order to pay by M-Pesa, you have to know your meter number. (so save it in your phone)
  • The cost of electricity has gone up by ~45% in a month i.e in mid-April a ‘unit’ of electricity cost Kshs 9.8 and in mid-May, it’s Kshs 14.2.

11 thoughts on “Prepaid Electricity in Kenya

  1. Bryan Yusuf

    I don’t understand why the number of kwh units differs for the same amount of money over a span of 2 weeks. I first bought units worth 500/- and got 51 kwh units. I again bought for the same amount and got 36 kwh units. Something doesn’t add up!

  2. bankelele

    Sam Kiranga & Mwas: Thanks – I hope it’s easier to obtain an electricity statement than an M-pesa one

    Phyllis: Correction noted, it is 20 digits

    Bryan Yusuf: Thanks for the tip – I have checked and amended the post to note the increasing cost of electricity, where paying the same amount of money obtains fewer units of electricity

  3. Rain

    Increase of 45%?!! I am shocked at the cost of living in Kenya. I have only been away for 8 months and yet it feels like 5 years worth of an economic transition.

  4. coldtusker

    @phyllis @bankelele – KPLC explained the reasons

    1) first 200 units do NOT attract VAT but the moment you cross it the ENTIRE usage attracts VAT [5%, I think]. Silly but KRA rules not KPLC. The VAT should be on incremental units but KRA seems to think if you can afford 201 units then you can afford VAT for all 201…!

    2) Depends WHEN you loaded the credit since KPLC price/kWh varies based on month of usage due to wildly fluctuating forex & oil prices

  5. 254joblink

    unlucky for those kplc meter more bribes for them…but hope it doesnt mean more job losses the unemployment is more than enough

  6. Philos Mudis

    Since most phone companies made their profits from prepaid users, KPLC will be able to increase its profit margins, stamp on defaulters etc.

    One thing I want them to assure customers is total satisfaction

  7. christine

    Very impressed you can pay your elec bill by mobile phone. We in rural New Zealand cannot even access mobile phones!

    But I am horribly shocked that your cost of elec jumped by so much. This must be a terrible blow, along with fuel costs, for an ordinary family.

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