STANDARDS

Energy authority to check quality of imported solar systems regulations

Even with the reduced reported systems failures and malfunctions over seven years, there still exist mishaps especially involved in quality and installations

In Summary

•The current framework of the Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations 2012 is running into seven years now and is also expected to expire after 10 years since enactment.

•The review will consider encompassing regulation of importation and sale of plug-and-play devices (off the shelf ready-made kits that do not require installation) which is currently not regulated.

SUN POWER: Solar panels installed at the newly constructed Wikithuki Primary School in Mwingi.Photo/Philip Kamakya
SUN POWER: Solar panels installed at the newly constructed Wikithuki Primary School in Mwingi.Photo/Philip Kamakya

Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority is reviewing regulations on solar systems and industry to improve quality, performance and existing malpractice.

The country is currently operating on regulations that allow manufacture, importation, distribution, promotion, sale, design or installation through licensed industry players.

However, even with the reduced reported systems failures and malfunctions, EPRA director-general Pavel Oimeke has said there still exist mishaps especially involved in installations either on common systems such as the solar street lighting, hybrid systems and solar water pumping.

The current framework of the Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations 2012 is running into seven years now and is also expected to expire after 10 years since enactment.

The review is also rooted under the Energy Act 2019 enacted in May.

Despite the notable industry strides made so far, there are gaps that have been also highlighted. This provides for an even strong rationale for review of the regulations to align with contemporary trends in the industry,” said in a speech read by Fredrick Nyang.

The review will consider encompassing regulation of importation and sale of plug-and-play devices (off the shelf ready-made kits that do not require installation) which is currently not regulated.

In a consultative study carried out by Sustainable Energy Initiative Ltd, as contracted by EPRA in March this year, the majority of the vendors (54 per cent) called for regulation in the standards of the systems.

However, there are certain devices that the vendors think ought to be exempt from regulation with the suggestion that KEBS should be more stringent in control of these devices to ensure only good quality products are brought into the country,” the study reported.

The products include solar lamps and lanterns, light bulbs, PV Kits, home systems, torches, DC Fridges, and solar-powered radios.

Other changes that will be made will be a requirement of technicians to operate with a license, failure to which it would attract a fine depending on their class.

The regulations passed in 2012 stipulated a working licence per technician in scope of either 100 W, 300W or the entire scope PV systems.

The regulations led to the licensing of 1,220 contractors and 877 technicians dealing in the Solar PV sector.

EPRA ascertains that there more than 800 solar PV technicians prior to 2012 regulations who were skilled but lacked training.

Over time, the open market has also seen the new entrants comprising the quality of installations, commissioning, and maintenance of solar photovoltaic systems.

The new regulations will put directive on practice for at least two years before applying for a license upgrade is appropriate, and revision of content to include electrical installation wiring systems.

There is need to reduce the overlap and strike against risks and costs,” legal consultant in the authority Kimani Muhoro said.

The regulations will be presented to Parliament.

Industry players have targeted the lower segment in the country, pushing for the universal access to power in the country.

This has seen the rise in demand and prominence for new PV products and services.

It is estimated that about 25,000 – 30,000 solar PV products are traded annually in the Kenyan market and that at least every household has owned one solar PV product such as solar lanterns and small mobile-phone chargers.