Youth banks on new tool to lower power costs
Watching his father suffer over inflated electricity bills, MWANIKI NGATIA embarked on a mission to rescue others from the pain
Charles Mwaniki would hit the roof each time he received a power bill in his post office mailbox.
It is unfortunate he did not live long enough to celebrate a solution his firstborn son created to cure the for many headache. He died too early.
His son, Mwaniki Ngatia, says the old man could not remember a moment Kenya Power sent him a genuine bill.
“It’s sad he is not around to celebrate this innovation. I swore at an early age to find a solution to his misfortunes and those of others with inflated power bills,” says the 23-year-old fresh graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture (Jkuat).
“Every time the bill arrived, he would dispatch me to Kenya Power with strict orders to have the bill adjusted. But officials at the company would send me back to get readings again.
“When I returned with new readings, they would chase me away again. Itook up to even five days for the bill to be adjusted downwards,” he says.
The back and forth depressed the young boy. “I made a commitment to work harder in school. It is for this reason I decided to come up with a solution to save thousands of power consumers who pay inflated power bills without their knowledge,” he adds.
That was in 2005, and the journey that gave birth to Power Yako (your power), an energy management system.
The innovation gives a breakdown of how power has been consumed by an individual, industry or even hospital.
In case of hospitals, Power Yako innovation helps management acquire the best machines because it is able to advise how much power a machine uses. “The era of stealing from consumers is over,” said Ngatia, proud of his achievement.
The software gives information on how much power is used in real time, and users can also get information broken down over a period of time.
The software is available as a website and android app.“A user can chat with their power using a laptop, mobile phone or tablet,” he says.
Already patented, the innovation currently runs as a pilot at Jkuat until it is rolled out for the market early next year.
The lead innovator roped in skilled hands and student colleagues in search of solutions to the power bill crisis, among them Denis Kariuki, Marystella Natasha and David Wanjohi.
“I brought them on board to add skills as software engineers. This helped the innovation. It was an extra ordinary team. At present people just pay for power without an idea about what they are paying for,” he says.
The tool now breaks down the distribution of power use, including what is used for lighting, charging, ironing, water heating, shower as well as power used by sockets- both heavy and light duty.
It also comes with a feature that helps the user regulate power consumption by switching off machines remotely.
The innovation is especially handy for farmers as it determine how much they use in irrigating land or pumping water.
The knowledge assists in determining the price of farm produce such as milk.
Ngatia has founded Neverres, which brings together brains in universities who are just about to graduate to find solutions using technology.