Energy is essential in powering up residential, commercial, industrial and even educational buildings. However, Kenya’s Energy Regulatory Commission has constantly, since January 2014, been reminding contractors and developers on the urgent need to incorporate solar installations in buildings. In March the following areas were highlighted in various media sources.

THE FINES

The Energy Management Regulations and Solar Water heating Regulations were passed in May 2012. Among other things, these regulations require developers and contractors in residential, commercial and infrastructural developments to install solar power installations. This is to ease the pressure on the national grid as well as to cut down on use of non-renewable energy sources e.g. diesel powered generators. In January 2014, the Energy Regulatory Commission, through a reminder, announced that developers and contractors who fail to fix the necessary solar installations will face fines of up to KSH 1 million. In summary, the regulations require:

  1. Buildings constructed before 2012 be retrofitted with the solar installations by the end of 2017
  2. Buildings currently under construction must incorporate the solar energy equipment
  3. Only technicians and contractors registered with the Energy Regulatory Commission will be the only ones allowed to conduct installations as per the stipulated regulations
  4. Only buildings that have the installations will be allowed to be connected to the mains power connections

Whereas the cost of installation may initially be high, the amount of money saved in the long-run will be significant. ERC estimates that 20% of total power consumed in Kenya is utilized by urban households for water heating purposes.

THE FUNDS

The African Development Bank launched the African Renewable Energy Fund on the 12th of March 2014. The fund started with US$ 100 million and it is targeting US$ 200 million within the next one year. AREF will have its headquarters in Nairobi. It seeks to fund independent power producers that are small to medium in scale. The renewable energy areas that will be financed include Small hydro, wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and waste gas. These should have a capacity of between 5MW and 50MW. The fund was a joint venture between AfDB and the African Biofuel and Renewable Energy Company (ABREC). It will be managed by Berkeley Energy Africa Limited. AfDB’s contribution to the fund is the highest at US$ 65million.

THE PLAYERS

On March 15th Magic Bridge Energy, a US-based solar energy solutions firm, announced plans to set up solar power solutions in 200 schools and hospitals in Kenya by end of June. Each system used by the firm costs approximately KSH 200,000. Strathmore University is also planning to set up a 1MW rooftop solar PV plant valued at KSH 222.2 Million in efforts to cut down on electricity costs.

AND THE STUMBLING BLOCKS

In a feature in the Standard, PV dealers expressed concerns regarding the recognition of these laws by architects and service engineers. The consultants, in turn, blame developers for failing to involve and pay consultants involved in the design and implementation of the regulations. If the discussions depicted in the article are anything to go by, then there ought to be proper coordination among the stakeholders in the building and design process. Homeowners also need to be educated on the economic and environmental benefits likely to be enjoyed from the utilization of these solar installations.