Kenya's solar panel law takes effect

Tuesday May 2 2017

Solar power panels mounted on a roof in Rwanda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

Solar power panels mounted on a roof in Rwanda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA

Kenya is gearing up for a significant surge in the use of solar energy after the government started enforcing regulations that would see installation of water heating systems in residential buildings.

In a renewed drive in favour of clean energies and reduced reliance on hydro and thermal energy, Kenya will from this month enforce regulations requiring property developers to install and use solar water heating systems.

The regulations are part of efforts to implement a green economy strategy towards sustainable development. Under the strategy the country hopes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 15 per cent by 2030.

Agnes Kimani, Chloride Exide Kenya marketing manager, reckons that enforcement of the regulations comes at an opportune time considering the national grid is under pressure owing to the increased demand for electricity and commitment by the government to connect all Kenyans to power by 2020.

“The national grid is feeling the strain of increased demand and we expect solar to ease the pressure,” Ms Kimani said.

The coming into force of the Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations 2012 after a five-year grace period now means that buildings with hot water requirements of a capacity exceeding 100 litres per day must install solar heating systems.

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In effect, starting May, residential premises, educational and health institutions, hotels and lodges, restaurants, cafeterias and other eating places and laundries will be required to have water heaters.

Expecting full compliance

Already, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has made it clear of its intent to enforce the regulations, something that should see Kenya set the pace for other East African countries in terms of increasing use of clean energies.

“From May this year, we will start enforcing the regulations and we expect full compliance,” said Robert Oimeke, ERC acting director general.

Failure to comply will see property developers risk a year in prison or a $10,000 fine. Besides, buildings that fail to comply will not be supplied with electricity from the national grid.

While East Africa is well suited geographically to harness solar power owing to the fact that the region receives some of the highest levels of horizontal irradiation in the world, exploitation of solar energy remains extremely low.

Due to location, East Africa countries receive daily insolation of between 4-6kWh/m2, meaning that in a day, one square metre of solar panel can generate 4 to 6 kilowatt units of electricity.

Ms Kimani says that on average its costs $1,100 to install a solar water heating system in a three-bedroom house. For commercial entities like schools and hotels, it costs an average of $10,000 to install the system but the costs also vary depending on the level of usage. More people will require a bigger system.

It is also estimated there are less than 3,000 solar photovoltaic technicians in Kenya yet the regulations require that only licensed technicians should be allowed to design and install solar systems. 

The coming into force of the regulations coupled by the zero-rating of import duty and removal of value added tax on renewable energy equipment and accessories is bound to ignite an increase in solar energy uptake.

James Mwangi, chairman of Kenya Private Sector Alliance energy committee said installation of solar systems will help protect the environment considering many buildings depend on thermal power generators when supply from the grid is disrupted.

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