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Focus on solar water heaters as law takes effect October

Solar panels at the Garden City Mall carport. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Solar panels at the Garden City Mall carport. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The energy sector is set for a major transformation after a law that seeks to compel all buildings that use over 100 litres of hot water in a day to install solar water heating systems, comes into effect.

This is according to The Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations, 2012 that gave Kenyans a five year moratorium which comes to an end in October.

The regulations provide that a person who contravenes them commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both. 

This means that buildings, both public and private, will create demand for installation of solar panels thereby resulting in jobs creation in the renewable energy sector.

Another impact is that there will be reduced usage of power from the mains thereby enabling the government to ensure that more people are connected to the national grid.

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According to the regulations, those to be affected are commercial buildings such as hotels, lodges, clubs, restaurants, cafeterias, laundries, eating places and similar premises. Also to be under the radar are hospitals, health centres and clinics and similar medical facilities.  

Others are institutions such as universities, colleges, boarding schools and similar facilities.

Mr Philip Kamau a co-founder of Questworks- Resol Company a company that offers solar energy products says the cost of solar installations has come down over the years.

“Seven years ago, the price of installing a solar system was as high as 3 dollars per watt. Three years ago, it dropped to 2 dollars per watt and now it is below 1.2 dollars per watt and this has really encouraged institutions to embrace solar energy,” he said in an Interview with Smart Company.

He attributed this to advances in technology especially in Asian market compared to Europe.

Watts are the lowest medium unit for calculating power and 1,000 watts are equivalent to one kilowatt while a million kilowatts are equivalent to 1 megawatt.

Three years ago Questworks –Resol delivered what is still the most acclaimed solar energy project in the country when it installed a 600 kilowatt system at Strathmore University.

It has since been appointed to carry out similar works at the Kenya School of Monetary Studies (KSMS) and also a 140 kilowatt hybrid (solar, battery and generators) system to homes of a prominent tycoon.

It has also been approached by several manufacturing and processing plants for installation of green lighting systems.

Financing was one of the biggest setbacks for those who sought to have solar panels although Mr  Kamau now says has been made easier.

“Financiers are able to fund these initiatives at preferential rates  of 3 to 5 per cent for as long as 10 years. Another option is that solar companies are now installing the system for clients who pay only for the energy consumed at a discounted rate over a period of time before owning the system,”  said he said.

According to Mr Kamau, who studied  BSC in Electrical Engineering at  Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, the upshot of the government directive is to reduce reliance on national power grid.

He said by installing solar panels, institutions can save up to 40 per cent of their power bills.

Mr Kamau, however, says tenants may have their landlords increase rent in the short term in order to cater for the initial cost of setting up the solar system.

Government institutions will also have to rework their budgets in order to cater for the new requirements and meet the ends of the law. And this is where firms dealing in solar products are focussing to net handsome returns.

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