Kenya property owners snub solar water systems order

Tuesday December 5 2017

Solar water heating panels on a roof.

Solar water heating panels on a roof. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is contemplating extending the compliance deadline for another six months, after it became apparent only a few buildings have installed the solar systems. PHOTO FILE | NATION 

By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA
More by this Author

The deadline for property owners and developers to install solar heating systems has passed, with the low levels of compliance attributed to a failure to enforce the requirement amid legal challenges.
The Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations 2012 gave a five- year window for homes and institutions that consume more than 100 litres of hot water per day to install solar water heating systems. That window closed on May 25 this year but was extended by six months to November 25.

The EastAfrican has learnt that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is contemplating extending the compliance deadline for another six months, after it became apparent only a few buildings have installed the solar systems.

Besides, numerous court cases opposing the implementation of the regulations have made it hard for ERC to force owners of residential buildings, educational and health institutions, hotels and lodges, restaurants, cafeterias and other eating places and laundries to install solar water-heating systems.

A survey by the regulator shows that only 77,000 systems have been installed in the country. This is despite the regulations stipulating that property developers risk a year in prison or a $10,000 fine and their buildings being denied national grid electricity for failure to comply.

Efforts to get comments from the ERC proved futile after the regulator failed to respond to queries by The EastAfrican.

Green economy

The regulations, which are part of Kenya’s efforts to implement a green economy strategy as a means towards sustainable development, are aimed at driving the use of clean energy and reducing reliance on hydro and thermal energy.

The goal is to have 60 per cent of energy used in heating water provided by solar.

Under the strategy, Kenya hopes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 15 per cent by 2030.

Another objective is to help property owners reduce the overall power bill since solar energy is cheaper in the long run, and also make buildings environmentally friendly because solar ranks as a clean energy.

According to industry experts, effective enforcement of the regulations coupled with the zero-rating of import duty and removal of value added tax on renewable energy equipment and accessories could trigger an increase in solar energy uptake.

“ERC must enforce the regulations to ensure compliance and in doing so, the regulator must police the industry to curb an influx of substandard solar systems,” said Patrick Taranu, general manager retail sales of solar energy firm Orb Energy .

In coming up with the regulations, Kenya was encouraged by the fact that the country is endowed with high solar potential averaging 4-6kWh/m2, meaning that in a day, a square metre of solar panel can generate four to six kilowatt units of electricity.
Kenya is also hoping to take advantage of the falling global price of solar photovoltaic systems, which have declined from $5 per watt in 2,000 to $0.5 per watt in 2016.