By Ombajo Vincent Gedion

Is Solar Thermal Kenya’s next ready frontier for Energy Efficiency?

For something to grow and be acceptable in large scale, a lot of work and time go into it. In the world of clean energy, a combination of factors that range from ideology, opportunities, needs and economics drive its growth, acceptance and adoption.

Across the globe and Kenya in particular, opportunities and economics dominate what drives the choice of consumers. Because of easy access to information, probably because of the massive presence of the internet in Kenya, consumer ideology on solar hot water is rapidly changing to the positive. Kenya is a leader in clean energy initiatives across the globe and solar water heating systems is remarkably having a fast growth.

Government regulations and subsequent policies are also an essential catalyst towards the achievement of the country’s green energy goals and vision 2030.

What is Solar Water Heating (SWH)?

Solar water heating systems basically harvest the sun’s heat and use the same to heat water. This water can serve domestic or commercial purposes like hotels, manufacturing plants, flower farms, schools and commercial buildings. The areas of application are broad and the need for hot water is huge and unexplored. A conventional boiler or immersion heater can be used to make the water hotter, or to provide hot water when solar energy is unavailable though this may also be unnecessary in most cases.

Why heat water using solar energy?

Several benefits that come from installation of solar thermal systems in homes and in the commercial sectors are the core drivers of this uptake. The most prominent advantage lies on reduction of the power bills. Solar thermal saves money. Heating water is conventionally done using electric systems or gas systems. This has proven too expensive yet the need for hot water is too necessary. Solar water heating systems entirely eliminates the power bills paid to electricity companies or money used to buy gas. In fact, installing these systems are widely recognized as basic energy saving measures with immediate payback.

Caring for the environment and conserving it at any opportunity is no longer a matter of choice for individuals, governments or businesses but a global obligation. Solar water heating systems are clean and environmentally friendly energy sources because they emit no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Global warming can thus be checked and reduced considerably through solar water heaters. Saving the planet is such a noble goal that needs the participation of all.

Energy independence, security and reliability are other benefits that fit the package. With these systems, while you spend nothing in heating your water, you are also dependent on no one. The sun’s power is not a monopoly and can be accessed by anyone.  It’s free. Power reliability is a major selling point for solar hot water systems.

Government Regulations

The Kenya government has put in place adequate resolutions with specific timelines. This has led to quick uptake for compliance purposes which is good for the pockets, economy and the environment. The Energy (Solar Hot Water) regulations, 2012 enforced by the Energy Regulatory Commission has certain requirements. These are that

  1. All premises with hot water requirements of a capacity exceeding one hundred litres per day should install and use solar heating systems.
  2. Within a period of five years from the effective date of the Regulations, which is 2012, all existing premises with hot water requirements of a capacity exceeding one hundred liters per day shall install and use solar heating systems.

NB: The end of five years from the effective date is 2017.

3. Owners of premises, Architects and Engineers engaged in the designing and construction of premises must see to it that solar water heating    systems are incorporated in such works

4. Electric power distributors or suppliers shall not provide electricity supply to premises where a solar water heating system has not been installed in accordance with the Regulations.

NB: For instance, Kenya power will not connect you to the grid unless you first have solar water heating system fitted to your premise.

The good news is, in Kenya, there are several licensed solar water heating service providers who are equipped and ready to satisfy this need. Energy companies like Eenovators Ltd provide training, design, installation, financing and maintenance of these systems.

Opportunities to save energy, the need to save money, the desire save the environment and the requirement to comply with government regulations has certainly made solar water heating technology a key player in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector in line with Vision 2030.