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How token system works in paying for electricity

Most ordinary consumers’ concern is how the same amount of money can buy different number of units. 


Most ordinary consumers’ concern is how the same amount of money can buy different number of units. 

Consumers of electricity have consistently complained about their power bills. It is one the reasons that prepaid metering was adopted, besides helping to deal with electricity theft.

But complaints about ‘faulty’ meters that cheat customers by running too fast and a rather complex pricing system have meant that consumers remain a disgruntled lot.

Among the biggest concerns for most ordinary consumers is how the same amount of money can buy different number of units of electricity “depending” on the date of the transaction.

A common belief is that buying power units towards the end of any given month grants a customer more tokens.

Some consumers are hesitant to believe explanations from Kenya Power, the country’s sole electricity distributor, about prepaid power metering.

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A monthly standing fee is applicable, irrespective of whether the customer buys power on that month or not.

Currently, the fixed charge is Sh150 and a mobile money transaction fee is applicable.

It is the reason why a consumer buying tokens via mobile money, which charges a Sh22 fee, could receive less than two units at one time (in the first purchase of the month) and 12 the second time in the same month, and for the same amount.

Buying tokens that last more than a month, for example, only means that a double monthly charge will be levied in the next purchase.

In such instances where double the monthly fixed charge is levied, a customer is likely to receive significantly less tokens.

Token pricing is also graduated to ensure that poor consumers – who would generally use less electricity because they do not have heavy appliances – pay less.

In the scale, the first 50 units are charged at the lowest rate while the second lot of between 51 and 1,500 units is six times more expensive.

The price shoots even higher with consumption exceeding 1,500 units, typical for commercial clients.

A lot goes into the process of buying power tokens from virtual wallets such as Safaricom’s M-Pesa to token generation through an electronic system and the counting of electricity units before power is remotely disconnected when the tokens run out.

To understand the pricing of electricity and why it might seem to run out faster at specific times, a customer should understand how the power amount is measured.

Prepaid meters measure the units of electricity in Kilowatt-Hours (KwH). A kilowatt is equivalent to 1,000 watts. Ratings on home appliances such as light bulbs indicate how much electricity is consumed.

A 100-watt bulb lighting for an hour will consume 0.1 KwH. The same bulb will consume 1KwH if it burns for 10 hours.

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