New regulations propose a mandatory solar water heating systems design provision for all buildings

Kenya is looking to increase its adoption of renewable energy with new regulations that will require all new and existing buildings to include designs for the installation of solar water heaters. The draft Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations, 2022, which were developed by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra), have been published for public input. The regulations state that all premises, including domestic and commercial buildings, must have solar water heating systems.

It is not the first time that Epra has attempted to enforce mandatory installation of solar water heating systems in Kenya. In 2012, the energy regulator gazetted the Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations, 2012, whose intent was to promote the uptake of solar water heating in industrial, commercial, and residential buildings. However, these regulations faced challenges during implementation and were set aside in 2018.

According to the new regulations, all premises must have in their design a provision for solar water heating system installation. Developers of housing estates, promoters of construction, owners of premises, architects, and engineers engaged in the design or construction of premises will be responsible for compliance.

The proposed regulations apply to all domestic and commercial buildings, including existing and new residential houses, hotels, lodges, clubs, restaurants, cafeterias, laundries, hospitals, health centers, and educational institutions such as universities, colleges, boarding schools, and other learning institutions.

According to Epra Director-General Daniel Kiptoo, the main goal of the proposed regulations is to standardize the production, importation, design, installation, and utilization of solar water heating systems in Kenya. He also highlighted that these regulations will aid in decreasing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and encourage the adoption of clean and renewable energy sources.

However, the new regulations may face similar challenges as the previous ones did. Landlords, tenants, and homeowners have protested that their implementation would be costly, as retrofitting their premises would be costly. A study conducted by researchers from JKUAT Enterprises Ltd, hired by Epra last year, found that the additional cost of solar water heaters was antithetical to the government’s objective of providing access to affordable housing. The study also found that investment in the heaters would only be recouped after about 10 years, making it economically unviable.

Apart from cost issues, previous regulations also encountered limitations on penalties and imprisonment. The fine of Sh1 million for violation of the regulations was inconsistent with the Statutory Instruments Act of 2013, which caps fines and jail terms at Sh20,000 and six months respectively.

While the new regulations may face challenges, it is clear that the Kenyan government is committed to increasing the adoption of renewable energy and reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. The use of solar water heating systems can help to reduce the country’s carbon footprint and promote a cleaner and more sustainable future.


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