Kenya Power, the country's leading electricity distributor, is calling for a complete ban on waste copper export to combat rampant power infrastructure vandalism.

Joseph Siror, the company's Managing Director & CEO, presented this proposal during a stakeholder forum involving representatives from the Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK), the Scrap Metal Council, and scrap metal dealers.

He emphasized a clear link between the local copper scrap trade and vandalism.

"Our investigations reveal a direct correlation," Siror stated.

"For instance, during the government-imposed ban on scrap metal dealing between January and May 2022, we witnessed zero vandalism cases. Conversely, the lifting of the moratorium resulted in a significant rise, with 76 transformers worth Sh68 million vandalized between May and December 2022. This only accounts for the cost of new transformers. When you factor in lost energy, business disruption, and potential loss of life, the losses reach billions of Kenyan shillings."

The situation continued to deteriorate in 2023, with Kenya Power losing an additional 365 transformers valued at Sh328 million. So far in 2024, 78 transformers worth Sh78 million have been vandalized.

Siror proposed a multi-pronged approach to address the issue.

This includes the vetting of all stakeholders involved in the scrap metal trade, encompassing local collectors, major dealers, smelters, and exporters.

"We propose that all traders dealing with scrap metal, especially copper and aluminium, must declare their sources to ensure traceability and accountability," Siror said.

Furthermore, Siror called for joint inspections of business premises to verify compliance with regulations and ensure proper filing of returns by dealers as mandated by the Scrap Metal Act and its accompanying regulations.

He emphasized the need for a more robust regulatory framework to eliminate "rogue elements" profiting from the vandalism.

While acknowledging the legitimacy of many players in the scrap metal industry, Siror highlighted the detrimental role of a few unscrupulous dealers.

"Many participants in the scrap metal industry are legitimate, a few unscrupulous dealers perpetuate this vice," Siror noted.

He urged all stakeholders to collaborate in eradicating these elements to guarantee a dependable and sustainable electricity supply for all Kenyans.

The Energy Act 2019, which criminalizes tampering with electricity infrastructure, energy theft, vandalism, and damage to streetlights and power infrastructure and prescribes a Sh5 million fine or a five-year prison sentence, or both, for offenders, was lauded by Siror for its role in deterring vandalism.

Kenya Power's proposal for a complete copper export ban is likely to spark discussions amongst various stakeholders, with the scrap metal industry potentially facing significant changes if the proposal is implemented.