Kenyan anti-deforestation efforts have spurred new sustainable energy policies and encouraged green non-profits to take hold across the country, but capital costs and adherence to established practices are threatening the movement’s future.
Nairobi’s required water heater policy was ahead of its time when the parliament approved it in 2012. Five years later, regulatory authorities are warning Kenyans who have not installed the mandated solar water heaters in their homes and businesses that they will face a fine of almost US$10,000 (one million shillings) in May, when the nation’s police are set to begin enforcing the law.
Residential and commercial buildings with water needs upwards of 100 liters per day are now required to have solar water heaters part of their design, per policy. Otherwise, in addition to the fines, the government will order electricity providers to blacklist non-compliant estates. This could include hospitals, restaurants, boarding schools, other businesses, and even homes with more than three bedrooms.
"Beginning next month, ERC and police officers attached to the commission will start conducting surveillance to ascertain compliance," Pavel Oimeke, the ERC's acting director-general, told The Daily Nation. "Where we confirm non-compliance, the law requires that we issue the building owner with a six-month notice to install the equipment failing which we shall charge them."
The initiative, which the government says would boost economic activity and lower power burdens on the national electric grid, has been slow to take hold. ERD audits show that only 150,000 of three million homes and buildings have installed the required systems.
So far, hotels have been the most active in amending their facilities to comply with the law. Kenyan boarding schools have moved at the slowest pace. Related: Can An OPEC Extension Push Oil To $60?
“Most of the new buildings are compliant while about 70 per cent of the old commercial buildings have installed solar water heaters,” Oimeke said. “The challenge will be institutions such as schools and universities, all of which have a huge hot water requirement. Many are yet to comply with the regulations. There are also residential homes, mostly those with upwards of three bedrooms that also use a lot of hot water and are yet to install the systems.”
The commission admits that the high cost of the green water heaters is part of the reason so many of Kenya’s buildings went without the devices at the beginning of the grace period. Since then, prices have fallen, and regulators insist that the technology is now affordable. “Cost is not a barrier. A few years back, it was between one and two per cent of the cost of construction but today, it has substantially gone down,” Oimeke said.
The kits cost between 125,000 shillings (US$1,210) and 150,000 shillings (US$1,452) for homes and between 600,000 shillings (US$5,809) and 2 million shillings (US$19,365) for larger commercial buildings. It is unclear if Nairobi has implemented a lending program for businesses that do not immediately have the capital to perform the necessary upgrade. Related: Space Mining: The Final Frontier For Oil Countries
But that doesn’t mean Kenyans are unenthusiastic about adopting solar power to fulfill other energy needs.
A 2015 study by the research firm InterMedia found that 14 percent of the country’s citizens had already been using solar power as their primary source of lighting and charging power.
The law is part of the global initiative to fight climate change, according to authorities. Without water heaters, wood is used to heat water, and chopping wood for cooking needs causes deforestation, which in turn, contributes to climate change.
Capital shortfalls and a lack of education about the benefits of the new technology still prevent Kenyans from installing the water heaters. If enforcement of the law proceeds as forcefully as suggested, a 600,000-shilling upgrade will be easier for businesses to swallow than a one million-shilling fine.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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