By Ombajo Vincent Gedion

High energy consumption coupled with low and intermittent power supply and inefficiencies necessitated the need to have energy management regulations. In 2012, the Energy Management regulations act was passed. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) was tasked with its implementation.

High energy consumers, those using more than 180,000 units of energy annually are required to conduct energy audits every three years. Failure to do so attracted specified punitive measures. It has been well over three years since the regulation came into force, has it achieved any significant results?

For a country and a market where energy audits was a relatively new concept, the progress made is laudable. Today, ERC website is littered with companies and their respective energy management policies, evidence that these facilities have done energy audits. That said, there is even much more ground to be covered, a lot still needs to be done.

The regulator needs to flex its muscles, and more resources have to be invested. Skills capacity of energy practitioners needs to be broadened to cover new challenges. Enhanced partners participation can also grow the energy efficiency market.  

The success of energy audits depends on the market reception, the depth of action by the regulator, availability of trained personnel, level of involvement of partners and the general appreciation of energy efficiency as a cost cutting measure.

So what has driven the energy efficiency market in Kenya? One of the key push factors towards conducting energy audits has been compliance. While this is a step in the right direction, it is not sustainable. It is expected that as the market matures and more knowledge on energy efficiency is shared, then the key motivation behind audits would be to save energy and costs. Today, many clients for energy audits only want to comply. They invest a lot of money just to comply and leave it at that. If they can change this and have a substantial need to save energy costs, then they will get value for their money. So in a nutshell, in Kenya, audits are conducted to comply, save energy and its costs and lastly for environment conservation in that order. This must change for any significant change to be seen.

Energy audits target factories, commercial buildings, hotels, shopping malls, institutions, flower farms, and so on. The market understanding of the whole objective of the audits and its process has been a key challenge. However, there are several energy audit firms in Kenya like Eenovators Limited who have done audits across the East African Market. Most energy audit companies’ first encounter with clients is with the procurement department who have insufficient knowledge on what an energy audit entails. Many times the auditor has to explain the audit process and convince the client of its necessity. This therefore calls for awareness to be done so that energy efficiency can become part of the strategic plans of companies complete with a budget.

Partnership in the energy efficiency market is crucial. Kenya Association of Manufactures (KAM) has played an essential role in helping firms carry out energy audits. At a subsidized cost, they have encouraged more firms to be audited. More of such partners are needed to drive the desired growth. To grow the energy efficiency market further, more qualified energy professionals need to be trained. The regulation also needs to be tightened. Building on the growth already experienced will require concerted efforts from the energy consumers, the Energy regulatory commission and partners like KAM and Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) who offer certified energy programs.