Three weeks ago, it was reported that Kenya Power had been jolted by the growing number of its prime customers embracing solar power and gradually defecting from the national grid, thus denying the company revenue.
Days later, a staffer at the KenGen communications department wrote an opinion article in the newspapers, on a personal capacity, which dwelt more on the disadvantages of solar power, explaining grid power is ‘king’.
Soon after, the Draft Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations, 2020 came the limelight. According to its drafters, Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra), it aims at streamlining the manufacture, importation, distribution, design, installation, testing, commissioning, maintenance and repair of solar photovoltaic systems and components.
This was followed by a strident public outcry following allegations that the government was out to throttle the fast-growing solar energy sector to protect the interests of Kenya Power against the competition.
Although there is no evidence that that is the case, public suspicion is justified going by the reaction of the big players in the power industry. The Senate Committee on Energy has also expressed reservations over the Epra regulations, which it says are meant to protect the interests of Kenya Power. It has warned that would slow down uptake of solar energy.
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While solar energy like everything else in the world has got its disadvantages, there is no doubt that they pale in comparison to the advantages. Today, thousands of Kenyans in rural areas lead a fairly dignified life, thanks to solar energy. These are families that have no hope of being connected to the national grid in the next few years or even decades.
There are good reasons to encourage Kenyans to go solar. Kenya’s power generation and distribution is still a work in progress. KenGen and Kenya Power still have a lot of work to do to make all Kenyans happy.
Second, clean energy is the buzzword today. If the world will win the war against climate change, clean energy will play a pivotal role. Luckily, Kenya ranks high among countries that rely heavily on renewable energy sources. Solar, wind and geothermal energy are all at our disposal. And as you will find in the story by KenGen boss on the next page, we are far from exploiting our full geothermal potential.
Indeed, if we fully tap these sources we would not have to resort to diesel generators or even build nuclear power plants, which some have opposed due to potential risks.
Let’s stop seeing those who embrace solar or wind energy as being a threat to Kenya Power. We should instead laud them for taking the right road to ensure as many people as possible have access to power that does not aggravate the climate crisis.