Little-Known Story of 2 Men Who Founded KPLC

  • Kenya Power building in Nairobi CBD.
    Kenya Power building in Nairobi CBD.
  • Kenya Power, and electricity in general, has become an ubiquitous component of today's living to an extent it is difficult to fathom that, slightly over a century ago, none of it existed in Kenya.

    The company, which was formerly christened Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), has in the recent years drawn criticism from customers following its monopolistic structures and skyrocketing charges. 

    So little is, however, known of the two men who came together, from their generator ventures, to create the dominant power distribution company.

    According to Kenya Power history books, the first ever inkling of street lights hit the Coastal town of Mombasa in 1875, when the second Sultan of Zanzibar, Sayyid Barghash bin Said Al-Busaid, bought a generator to light up his palace as well as the streets neighbouring it.

    Mr Clement Hertzel who founded Nairobi Electric Power and Lighting Syndicate.
    Mr Clement Hertzel who founded Nairobi Electric Power and Lighting Syndicate.
    Kenya Power

    The generator was later purchased by Harrali Esmailjee Jeevanjee in 1908, who transferred it for use in the then Mombasa Electric Power and Lighting Company. Jevanjee was a wealthy merchant located in Mombasa.

    At around the same time, another Engineer known as Clement Hertzel, who had arrived in East Africa via South Africa, had set up the Nairobi Power and Lighting Syndicate and had been given the right to supply electricity to Nairobi, which was just a district at the time.

    Hertzel had a storied rise in Nairobi since arriving in 1904. In 1905, he formed the Nairobi Power and Lighting Syndicate company alongside Charles Udall as Chief Engineer and R.C. Bayldon as the Managing Director.

    The company then built a Hydro-electric generation facility on Ruiru River and in 1908, it started supplying power to various neighbourhoods in Nairobi.

    A dozen years later, the two companies joined forces, in 1922, under the East African Power and Lighting Company (EAP&L) which then pursued expansion drives into Uganda as well as Tanganyika.

    In 1932, the company acquired a controlling interest in the Tanganyika Electricity Supply Company Limited (TANESCO) and four years later, it also made its entry into Uganda after acquiring the necessary licenses.

    In 1948, the Ugandan government, however, established their own power distribution board known as The Uganda Electricity Board (UEB) after the landlocked country began the construction of Owen Falls Dam.

    After the Dam's completion, Kenya then created the Kenya Power Company (KPC), which was under EAP&L to help transmit the power from Uganda through Juja line.

    10 years later, the company also sold its shares in TANESCO and in 1983, the company was renamed to Kenya Power and Lighting Company Limited (KPLC).

    In 1997, Kenya sought to separate the power generation arm of KPLC, which was later renamed to Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), from the transmission and distribution section.

    The state, in 2004, then created the Energy Sector Recovery Project (ESRP) in an effort to improve the quality and reliability of supply, reduce system losses and increase access to electricity. In its quest to have electricity distributed to the rural areas, the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) was created in 2007 followed by Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) in 2008.

    In 2011, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company was rebranded to Kenya Power.

    KenGen Geothermal Plaza in Nakuru County.
    KenGen Geothermal Plaza in Nakuru County.
    Capital Group