Why Kenya should further step up its energy efficiency efforts

Magnate Ventures Electrician at work when Senate's Energy Committee toured KPLC Meter providers factory in Nairobi on December 8, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Energy ministers, chief executives and senior leaders will congregate in Nairobi from May 21 to 23 this year for the World Energy Efficiency Conference to share experiences on energy efficiency for substantive real-world progress. For Kenya, the International Energy Agency’s event is important for several reasons.

One, it is a moment for Kenya to reflect on gains made since 2004 when it entrenched the adoption of energy efficiency mechanisms through gazetted regulations that required industries using over 180,000 Kilowatts annually to take drastic measures towards saving energy. Even electric appliance makers were not spared in the energy efficiency race as they are now expected to make new appliances that consume less power and rate them accordingly as high, medium and low energy-consuming devices.

Two, Kenya is keen on mainstreaming energy efficiency away from the sustainable energy talk that has resulted in energy efficiency becoming a forgotten issue.

To become energy efficient, say within homes, one has to change the lighting type from compact fluorescent lamps to light-emitting diodes and acquisition of energy-efficient appliances that are properly rated and are 5-star labelled. This leads to a reduction in the units consumed per month, without affecting the quality of energy available.

Industrial, commercial and institutional facilities are tasked with retrofitting their lighting systems, enlarging windows to allow natural lighting and also natural ventilation to reduce reliance on air conditioning appliances as well as adoption of solar PV systems.

First, this means lower energy bills for consumers and reduced energy bills for companies. While this would enhance the purchasing power for individuals, companies get a leeway to enjoy reduced cost of production hence cheaper pricing of goods, making Kenyan-made goods more competitive locally and on the international market.

Secondly, energy efficiency also reduces the strain on the national grid with the ‘saved’ energy redistributed to other regions that were erstwhile unsupplied. With such a relief of power strain on the grid, the country saves billions of shillings that would have been spent on building new power plants to supply energy to newer customers. It means more money available for the dispensation of public services.

Since 2004, when conversations around energy efficiency were mooted by the Energy and Petroleum Authority (Epra), stakeholders from different sectors were actively involved, culminating in the formulation and gazettement of the Energy (Energy Management) Regulations 2012. Epra, in its quest to popularise the new regulation, launched the annual Energy Management Awards where companies compete for the coveted most efficient award.

The Energy Management Awards is an annual award that promotes excellence in energy management and recognises companies that have achieved a significant reduction in their energy consumption through the implementation of energy-efficient measures and technologies.

Epra’s responsibility is to conduct energy consumption rating and label the participating facilities (factories) as low, medium and high energy consumers with the audited industry required to put in place an energy management policy that will be reviewed by Epra before implementation.

According to the regulations, every company will designate an energy officer to oversee activities and investments to be undertaken towards making their firms energy efficient. Annually, a participating firm will subject its facilities to an energy audit to be undertaken by a licensed energy auditor at least once every three years.

Based on the energy audit report, every participating company is expected to formulate an Energy Investment Plan within six months and set out proposals for the conservation of energy during that period.

Through the set interventions, participating entities are expected to save at least half of the projected energy savings. Since 2004, the implementation of the regulations has saved annual energy that could be generated by a 20 MW power plant, running 80 per cent of the time, the whole year.

This 20 MW virtual power plant translates to realised annual savings of 1.8 million litres of industrial diesel oil and 51 million litres of heavy fuel oil that would have been needed to run a 20 MW thermal power plant thereby saving the environment from harmful carbon emissions. 

Compliance with Energy Management Regulations is still low, with 56 per cent of the designated facilities conducting audits and only 43 per cent implementing energy-saving measures. With full compliance, it is estimated that the country can achieve, by 2030, savings equivalent to a 100 MW power plant.

In 2016, Epra published fresh regulations targeting the introduction of energy efficiency requirements for domestic electric appliances such as motors, lighting appliances, household refrigerators and non-ducted air conditioners.

This means that all appliances are first tested in laboratories at the country of origin before importation into Kenya to ascertain their compliance with Minimum Energy Performance Standards. The appliances spot a give-star EPRA label. The more the stars, the more efficient the appliance is.

The market has responded well to the 2016 Regulations, with compliance levels for refrigerators and air conditioners recorded at over 99 per cent. This directly benefits the users of these appliances.

Such measures require inputs from all stakeholders, for efficient outcomes including the consumers of the appliances, energy auditors, energy service companies, manufacturers, learning institutions and energy think tanks.

As Kenya continues to benefit from enhanced energy efficiency, all stakeholders in the energy market must participate in the processes aimed at improving energy efficiency in homes, commercial office spaces and manufacturing facilities.

Fenwicks Musonye is the Deputy Director of Energy Efficiency at EPRA

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