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Senate slams brakes on solar

By Awal Mohammed | December 10th 2020

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui (C) joins investors in touring the new 1mw solar plant in Oserian flower farm in Naivasha. The plant will see the cost of power in the Naivasha-based farm drop by 18 per cent with plans to add another 10mw of solar in the coming months. [Photo: Standard]

Senators have poked holes in the proposed regulations to govern the trade in solar systems in the country.

Members of the Senate Committee on Energy yesterday said the proposed conditions that solar technicians will have to meet to be authorised to practice, including relatively high licensing fees, could slow down the uptake of the energy source.

They claimed the regulations had been deliberately fashioned to protect some energy sector players such as Kenya Power against the competition.

“The committee is not convinced with the (Energy) Ministry and the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) responses that these regulations are not meant to protect the interest of KPLC as a monopoly,” said Committee chairman Ephraim Maina during a virtual meeting with Energy Cabinet Secretary Joseph Njoroge and Epra Director General Pavel Oimeke.

In the regulations, a solar technician is required to pay between Sh2,250 and Sh6,000 to obtain and renew a licence.

A contractor, on the other hand, will pay between Sh3,000 and Sh6,000 for a licence.

The licences will be valid for three years, with practitioners required to apply for renewal one month before the expiry date.

Both technicians and contractors will also be required to obtain insurance policies for their licences of between Sh1 million and Sh10 million, according to their respective licence classes. 

Practising with an expired licence will attract a penalty of Sh50,000 per day for the period in question.

Nominated senator Abshire Halako questioned the country’s commitment to adopting renewable energy solutions considering the punitive nature of proposed regulations.

“These regulations do not offer solutions... but it looks like they are hell-bent to protect certain people or institutions,” said Halake.

But PS Njoroge denied that the regulations are meant to protect Kenya Power from competition from the cheaper energy source.

“These regulations are not in any way meant to protect the position of KPLC, we shall review the pricing of the licences and come back to the committee. Our only aim is to streamline the sector,” he said.

EPRA stated that the Draft Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations 2020 are aimed at streamlining the manufacture, importation, distribution, design, installation, testing, commissioning, maintenance and repair of solar systems in Kenya.

The stringent proposed regulation, which also includes an Sh10,000 fine if they delay renewing their license and Sh20,000 if they do not issue a completion certificate for a project or warranty for installation, is likely to slow down the uptake of solar energy solutions.

Additionally, penalties on failure to provide data to EPRA or providing false data will range between Sh5,000 and Sh1 million.

Licenses are based on the capacity of the system to be installed. License classes SPW1, SPW2 and SPW3 are for solar systems with a capacity of not more than 400 watts, 2kW and 50kW respectively. Only SPW4 technicians will be allowed to install solar grids of any capacity.

On his part, Narok Senator Ledama Ole Kina called for the maintenance of the status quo where individuals or companies operate in a free environment to install solar panels.

“Suspend the all the application fee in this regulations if at all these regulations is not there to help KPLC from the hole they dug themselves into because of poor management and debts,” said Ole kina.

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