Epra races to strangle solar use

Solar power

A man cleans a solar and wind energy system. Ordinary Kenyans and major power users no longer want to stick with the expensive and unreliable national grid.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • A technician must obtain a licence from the authority in order to design, install, commission or repair a solar photovoltaic system.
  • Licence classes STI, ST2 and ST3 are for systems with a capacity of not more than 400 watts, 2kW, and 50kW respectively.

You will need a bachelor’s degree or three courses in engineering to operate as a solar power technician, if the new guidelines drafted by the energy regulator are implemented. 

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) has introduced a raft of punitive rules that could stifle the mass switch to cheap solar power by ordinary Kenyans and heavy consumers that has left Kenya Power in financial difficulties.

Just last week, the parastatal raised concerns following the switch to solar by heavy consumption industrial customers who make up 54.8 per cent of its sales revenues.

The Draft Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations, 2020 seek to make it a harder and more expensive to manufacture, import, install or maintain solar components and systems and make consumers stick to the expensive and unreliable national power grid.

Install solar grids

According to the regulations, a technician must obtain a licence from the authority in order to design, install, commission or repair a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

The permits are granted, based on the capacity of the system to be installed.

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.

They should also have additional training certification in electrical and solar PV systems.

Those in the second category must have completed secondary school. They should have a training in electronics and solar energy systems.

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.

Class SC4 permits

For contractors to import or sell solar PV components, they must obtain classes SC1, SC2, SC3, SC4 and SM licences from the regulator for grids not exceeding 400w, 2kW, 50kW respectively.

Meanwhile, importers with class SC4 permits will be allowed to sell and install any solar grid system.

Only those with a class SM licences will be allowed to import parts that are used to manufacture solar PV components and systems.

Solar technicians will part with Sh2,250 to Sh6,000 in order to get and renew their licences, while contractors will pay Sh3,000 to Sh6,000.

The contractors must take insurance policies of between Sh1 million and Sh10 million.

Solar operators will be slapped with a daily fine of Sh10,000 if they delay to renew their licences, Sh20,000 if they do not issue a completion certificate for a project and the same amount for failing to provide a warranty for installation.

Epra said regulating the industry 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,” Epra Director-General Pavel Oimeke said.

“This is through licensing players in the solar photovoltaic chain and enforcement of approved standards for the industry.”

Heavy power consumers that have switched to or incorporated solar energy into their systems include Africa Logistics Properties, Mombasa Airport, Icipe, London Distillers Ltd, Williamson Tea and Kapa Oil Refineries.

bambani@ke.nationmedia.com

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