EPRA Moves To Frustrate Mass Switch To Solar Use

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) has announced strict measures aimed at discouraging Kenyans from switching to cheap solar energy.

This is after Kenya Power expressed concerns over the mass switch for an alternative power leaving it in financial difficulties.

KPLC stated that they have witnessed a record switch to solar by heavy consumption industrial customers who make up 54.8 per cent of its sales revenues.

This has forced EPRA to come up with regulations to make it a harder and more expensive to manufacture, import, install or maintain solar components and systems and will at the end force Kenyans to stick to the expensive and unreliable national power grid.

Through the Draft Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations, 2020, the energy regulator wants technicians to obtain licence from the authority in order to design, install, commission or repair a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

Customer keying in KPLC Token numbers. Photo/Courtesy

EPRA defended the move stating that it would ensure solar components and systems meet approved standards.

“In consultation with stakeholders, the authority has developed regulations. The goal is to streamline the manufacture, importation, distribution, design, installation, testing, commissioning, maintenance and repair of solar photovoltaic systems and components.”

“This is through licensing players in the solar photovoltaic chain and enforcement of approved standards for the industry,” Epra Director-General Pavel Oimeke said.

The authority will grant permits based on the capacity of the system to be installed, for example licence classes STI, ST2 and ST3 are for systems with a capacity of not more than 400 watts, 2kW, and 50kW respectively.

Only a technician with a class ST4 licence will be allowed to install solar grids of any capacity.

To put a check on the number of people that can obtain these permits, technicians for basic solar grids must have completed primary school and must also have additional training certification in electrical and solar PV systems.

Electricians in the second category must have completed secondary school and must have a training in electronics and solar energy systems in order to get permit.

A bachelor’s degree is a must if you want to make a career out of installing solar grids. You will also need relevant experience in electrical engineering.

According to the new regulations, contractors seeking to import or sell solar PV components, must obtain classes SC1, SC2, SC3, SC4 and SM licences from the regulator for grids not exceeding 400w, 2kW, 50kW respectively and only with class SC4 permits will be allowed to import and sell any solar grid system.

EPRA Director General, Pavel Oimeke. Photo/Courtesy

The regulator has also restricted the importation of parts used in manufacturing sola PV to importers with class SM licences.

Licences renewal will cost technicians and contractors Ksh2,250 to Ksh6,000 and Ksh3,000 to Ksh6,000 respectively.

The contractors must also have insurance policies of between Ksh1 million and Ksh10 million.

Delaying in licences renewal will see technicians pay a fine of Ksh10,000 while failure to issue completion certificate for a project and warranty for installations will attract a fine of Ksh20,000.

The growing electricity bill has seen heavy power consumers companies such as Africa Logistics Properties, Mombasa Airport, Icipe, London Distillers Ltd, Williamson Tea and Kapa Oil Refineries switch to solar energy.

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