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Electric Appliance Quality in Kenya

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When buying products online, most of us depend on our own knowledge of the product and related specifications, and product reviews in a site’s comment section or on review sites.  In the event of false advertising, we rely on there being return policies though most of the time, electrical appliances perform as expected. This is particularly true for branded products sold through reputable merchants.  However, there is a global industry of poor quality and counterfeit products that do not perform as expected and this can be a problem in the less regulated markets. So, what might a Kenyan consumer find in the market and how can the Modern Energy Cooking Services (MECS) programme anticipate and enable a quality ecosystem?

 

For instance, if a product is purchased using drop shipping merchants, returning it might not be an available alternative meaning that a consumer might need to “count their losses”. Consumers of electrical appliances in Kenya frequently find themselves in this situation even when the store they purchased the appliance from is accessible and known to them. A general lack of accountability by the traders, due to limited enforcement capacity by regulators, leaves consumers counting losses. Given the limited purchasing power of many consumers in Kenya, what is a small inconvenience to someone who has lucked out of a good drop shipping purchase, might be a huge financial loss and a missed opportunity to own a much-needed appliance.

 

Data and information on the electric appliance quality situation in Kenya are limited and have rarely been investigated beyond counterfeiting, an aspect of quality which fails to encompass the entire issue. To mitigate against and prevent unwanted eventualities where possible, MECS is collaborating with Strathmore University to develop an outlook of the electric cooking quality ecosystem. The program is looking to increase the adoption of electric cooking appliances in Kenya and other Sub-Saharan African countries and quality control is a crucial element of appliance uptake. My team and I are therefore mapping the electric appliance quality ecosystem and identifying issues that impact the sector, including parallels in other countries which can help contextualize the Kenyan situation.

 

The transition to modern energy cooking services is expected to result in substantive adoption of electric cooking appliances in Sub-Saharan African countries such as Kenya. This anticipated adoption in Kenya follows the Last Mile Connectivity Project (LMCP) which increased electricity connectivity in rural areas, where biomass is still used as a cooking fuel. This increase in electrification rate, coupled with MECS activities, is expected to result in the increased adoption of electric cooking appliances, especially electric pressure cookers, in the country.  As adoption increases, it is important to ensure and assure the safety of users to mitigate against injuries or financial losses that might result from poor quality purchases. To keep adoption momentum and protect consumers, manufacturers also need to be aware of quality as it relates to consumers, a similar but distinct theme from quality as it relates to laboratory testing and quality standards compliance.

 

Electric cooking appliances such as electric pressure cookers are relatively new to the Kenyan market, and hence have less developed supply chains with respect to reach into rural communities. Therefore, the team is investigating supply chains of electric appliances (referred to as “appliances” from here onward), to study the probable outlook of the electric cooking quality ecosystem. During the literature review stage, the team classified the appliance supply chain into two categories. There are appliances supplied through Luthuli, Nyamakima and River Road (supply chain A) and those supplied by authorized distributors of “known brand names” (supply chain B). Supply chain A sells unbranded appliances, self-branded appliances and appliances found in supply chain B.  On the other hand, supply chain B sells appliances from “known brand name” manufacturers with authorized distributors who are sometimes allowed to repair on behalf of the manufacturer.

 

In urban areas, only electric shops in locations such as Luthuli, Nyamakima and River Road sell supply chain A (SCA) appliances while the same shops, supermarkets and authorized distributors sell supply chain B (SCB) appliances. In rural areas, SCB appliances are prevalent, and are sold through rural electric shops while SCA appliances are mostly found in supermarkets. This distinction of “who sells what” is important because while quality issues might arise from both SCA and SCB, these issues are more likely to be addressed when appliances are purchased through SCB. This is because SCB sellers tend to have a warranty process in place and service centres where an individual can secure appliance repair services after the warranty period has expired. We remain unsure whether appliances sold through SCA attract similar warranty protections or can be taken to the service centre after the warranty period has expired.

 

A major challenge with SCB appliances is the lack of consumer awareness regarding warranty since some consumers might not be accustomed to the concept of warranty thus might not seek it. Other consumers might not be aware of warranty terms and might throw away receipts upon unboxing, voiding their warranty claim. The second challenge is the lack of availability of service centres, especially for rural consumers who sometimes have to travel to the nearest town to repair their appliance. Even in cases where repair centres are available, some manufacturers set the repair price high to increase the likelihood of the consumer purchasing a new appliance, instead of opting for repair.

 

The third and most relevant challenge for electric cooking, especially pressure cookers is the lack of replacement parts for easily removable parts at the point of sale. For example, the float valve and its silicone cap for electric pressure cookers are removable and very small. The float valve degrades over time thus it is understandable that the manufacturer opted to make it easily removable. However, the only manufacturer’s instructions for consumers who have purchased the appliance worth £140 is to “put the silicone cap and the float valve in a safe place to avoid losing them”. There is no information on what to do in case you lose the silicone cap and/or the float valve, nor on what to do when the sealing ring ages. Such an appliance is considered expensive in Kenya and parts should be made available for replacement in the box at the point of sale.

 

As for SCA, the major challenge is that some shops sell counterfeits of SCB appliances and poor quality (non-counterfeit) appliances sourced from factories selling unbranded products. These factories selling unbranded products are similar to the ones used in the dropshipping trend where appliances can be branded on request by the seller or bought without a label.  Similar to SCB appliances, counterfeit and poor quality SCA appliances have to produce a certificate of conformance at the port of entry thus there is a need to find out where lapses occur, enabling the entry into the country. Of note is that our project focuses on quality rather than counterfeiting since there are some non-counterfeits products of poor quality, an issue that is of great concern for electric cooking appliances.  The link between counterfeits and quality has also been explored extensively by manufacturers in Kenya.

 

Parallels to both systems can be found in ecommerce where assuring the quality and safety of appliances has become challenging for regulators given the scale of imports. For most of the sites, consumers source of information through recommendations by other users (social reviews) and by reading reviews on the ecommerce sites and/or consumer review sites. Most Kenyan consumers only depend on social reviews and there is a lack of reliable review sites that are accessible to majority of Kenyans, though it is important to note that site reviews can be corrupted. Therefore, there are still more questions to be answered with respect to the operations of SCA and SCB, including how consumers get information on appliances to purchase. The next phase of the project will seek to explore consumer dynamics and other issues such as importation gaps that enable the entry of poor-quality goods.

 

This project is funded by the Modern Energy Cooking Services is led by Ms Anne Wacera Wambugu.

 

The article was written by  Ms Anne Wacera Wambugu. You can contact us at serc@strathmore.edu.

 

This article was first published on Modern Energy Cooking Services website.

Biomedical engineers trained in Tier 2 level systems

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This week marks the end of cohort two training for biomedical engineers from Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kisumu, Samburu, Siaya and Tana River. The biomedical engineers learned how to design, size, install, and maintain solar photovoltaic systems. They also attended classes on workplace issues revolving around design thinking, business communication skills, mental health, and professional documentation. The training, which spans four cohorts, aims to provide a sustainable solution to hospitals in the most vulnerable counties, and to support ongoing Covid-19 efforts in the healthcare sector.

 

Electricity plays a critical role in the delivery of patient services including vaccination, which requires refrigeration. In the absence of electricity, these services grind to a halt and can lead to an increased risk of patient death. Unreliable electricity also slows down the modernization of healthcare services thus adversely affecting vulnerable populations in rural areas. Frequent down-times reduce equipment dependability and lack of equipment disincentivizes medical professionals from working in rural areas.

 

“In the dispensaries, we are faced with challenges of paying electricity bills. The allocated amount sometimes doubles, and this then becomes a challenge. I have seen that the use of solar energy will help us a lot in the sub-county,” says Roslyn Chepkemoi, Biomedical Engineer, Bomet Central sub-county. Reliable power remains a critical issue in sub-Saharan Africa as shown by a systematic review done in 2013 in 14 countries which found that only 34 percent of grid-connected hospitals had reliable electricity. Further, around 41 percent of healthcare facilities do not have access to electricity and 70 percent of medical devices in Africa cannot be used due to lack of good and stable quality of power. Taking this into account, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic calls for a renewed focus on electrification of rural healthcare facilities with no grid connection and the provision of better backup to those without reliable electricity. Both can be achieved using off-grid technologies such as solar photovoltaic systems.

 

Properly installed, operated, and maintained solar photovoltaic systems with batteries are reliable and cost-competitive compared to alternatives such as fuel gen-sets when properly installed, operated, and maintained. When financed upfront, they require a high initial capital expenditure which can be unattainable for health-care facilities. However, the availability of financing is improving, and knowledgeable individuals can assist hospitals assess the options they have. These are some of the issues covered in the training.

 

“In addition, I learnt that the user should be empowered on how to use the system. This will assist the user to avoid system overload. Further, I also realized that the use of LEDs and CFLs instead of normal bulbs is more efficient in the long run.” added Roselyn.

 

The project runs from June 2020 to January 2022 but the courses, which began in late November 2020, will run until April 2021, with the extra time being used for follow-ups and impact assessment. By the end of the course, Strathmore Energy Research Center will have trained 60 biomedical engineers from 30 counties. These are: Busia, TransNzoia, Vihiga, Kericho, Elgeyo Marakwet, Bomet, Bungoma, Taita Taveta, Nyamira, Kwale, Baringo, West Pokot, Tharaka Nithi, Narok, Nyandarua, Migori, Homa Bay, Laikipia, Kilifi, Kajiado, Marsabit, Kitui, Murang’a, Tana River, Isiolo, Lamu, Kirinyaga, Samburu, Makueni and Kakamega.

 

This project is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and is led by Ms Anne Wacera Wambugu. The article was written by Ms Anne Njeri Njoroge, the Communications Officer at Strathmore Energy Research Centre. You can contact us at serc@strathmore.edu.

 

Exclusive Interview: Professor Izael Da Silva

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Professor Da Silva is a renewable energy specialist with over 20 years of experience in research and academic leadership. He holds a PhD and a Master of Science (MSc) in Electrical Engineering, with a specialisation in Power Systems, from the University of Sao Paulo, as well as a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Electrical Engineering, with a specialisation in Power Systems and Telecommunications, from the Federal University of Parana. He has worked on research projects with government ministries, development agencies (like GIZSidaThe World Bank) and industry stakeholders (within and outside Africa).

 

WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST IN LIFE?

 

My dad. He did not go to school but he was a wise man and understood the need for education. He spent a great deal of time teaching me about business and life in general such as kindness, generosity, the need to cultivate a good relationship with God, the quest for excellence, and the importance of small things, among others. Another important thing he taught me was accountability. If I did something bad, I had to acknowledge it and face the consequences.

 

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR AND WHAT WAS YOUR KEY TAKEAWAY?

 

I read a lot. Amongst my favourites are The Lord of the RingsKristin LavransdatterCrime and PunishmentMan’s Search for Meaning, Getting things done, etc. However, there is one book which has had a great influence on my life: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I have read this book about 10 times and I use it often to train people working under me.

 

WHEN MEETING OTHER LEADERS WHAT DO YOU ASK THEM?

 

I love listening to other people’s stories. I ask about their journey and what motivates them to keep going. I used to talk a lot but time has taught me that to listen is smarter.

 

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE AND WHAT LESSON LEARNED DO YOU CONTINUE TO PRACTISE TODAY?

 

My first serious leadership experience was when I decided to leave Brazil and settle in Uganda in 1997. A new country, new language, new culture and nobody to validate me. I had a PhD in Power Systems but the country was not yet prepared to offer me an opportunity to meaningfully use my doctorate. I had to choose a new area of interest that could make an impact in society. I chose renewable energy and I never looked back. I discovered that there are many ways of doing things right, and so I had to learn to be flexible. I also learnt that one cannot go far alone, and so I had to learn to delegate and synergise.

 

IS A LEADER BORN OR MADE?

 

Both! Not everyone is called to be a leader in the sense we are considering here. My mom has never worked outside our home and yet she is a leader and, in a way, has always managed to make my dad look good. She inspired me a lot as well. There is always room for improvement and extended education. I am a passionate person who wants to learn new things until the day I die.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?

 

Humility! If one is ready to keep doing the right thing and allow the people in his/her team to shine, that person is a leader. One can learn a lot about leadership by reading Sharma’s book The Leader who Had no Title. Two other features which help are: passion and deep knowledge of whichever area one is dealing with.

 

WHAT INDUSTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR ARE YOU LOOKING AT FOR INSPIRATION?

 

I love coaching and mentoring, with a keen interest in philosophy, anthropology, critical thinking and other similar areas. At Strathmore University I have a list of about ten people whom I mentor and I speak once or twice each semester. Having run seven full marathons, I am a fitness freak who keeps checking the average speed of a five- or ten-kilometer race on my fitness tracker.

 

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

 

It was to go for an academic career without anyone in my family ever having gone to university. At 17 years I left my small town and job to pursue an engineering career with zero money! I learned from my father how to repair watches and with that skill, I was able to study, get a government-paid engineering degree and later another national government-supported Masters and PhD. Today many of my relatives have degrees because they were inspired by my little madness!

 

IF YOU COULD WISH AWAY A CHALLENGE TO YOUR BUSINESS OR THE INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

 

One of my dreams is to coach graduate engineers to help them become registered engineers and behave in an ethical manner. I would tell each one of them that if we each commit ourselves to be a good professional who does not steal and does not lie, though we may not solve the problems of the world, for sure there will be two “thugs” less on this planet. And that would be something already! So, yes, I would wish away the complacency with corruption that so many African professionals have.

 

WHAT TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES DO YOU USE TO KEEP A TEAM MOTIVATED?

 

The main “tool” is the inside out struggle. They have to see you fighting to be better. If you are: a) proactive, b) start with the end in mind and c) put first things first, I can warrant your success as an inspiring leader. This is the lesson I learnt from the book by Covey I mentioned above. It is really a “must read” for all who want to make it in life in a holistic manner.

 

HOW DO YOU MEASURE YOUR AND YOUR TEAM’S PERFORMANCE?

 

At Strathmore University we have a biannual evaluation following up on our agreed Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This helps keep you on track as you begin working on these KPIs from the start of the year that you can split into several actionable tasks. One thing that helps is to have all the KPIs of all the people working with me aligned in such a way that natural synergy appears with amazing results. The main issue is to do things rather than talk about things. We always have in mind the importance of avoiding N.A.T.O. which is my acronym for No Action, Talk Only! NATO people must either change or be let go.

 

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY AS A LEADER IN A TIME WHERE LEADERSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER?

 

The first rule of leadership when facing uncertainty is to “Accept Reality”. Every day things happen to us. Some are good, others are neutral, and some are bad. Accept them all. This is your raw material to achieve your success. Wishful thinking is a waste of time. For example, last year and even now, we have the COVID-19 pandemic with all its consequences. I accept COVID-19 and ask: how can COVID-19 make me a better person and how can COVID-19 help me to help other people? If because of COVID-19 I acquire some virtues and avoid some vices and if on top of it all I become more charitable and make people’s lives better, COVID-19 has done good to me!

 

WHAT ROLE DO YOU SEE YOUR TEAM PLAYING IN THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY OF THE 2020 GLOBAL PANDEMIC?

 

My institution is small (about 1,000 staff members) and is aligned with our strategic goals and values. This helped us to fast-track the training of lecturers and researchers so that they could perform their duties via the internet in a fast and highly professional manner. This made all the difference when the lockdown started. We created a suitable environment for all students to keep learning with enough bundles, laptop, administrative support and mentoring. We plan to continue working together with students, lecturers and parents to face the challenges of economic recovery. We have been organising ‘townhalls’ with all stakeholders and this has helped us to get innovative ideas and put them into practice.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS SCENARIO PLANNING WHEN IMPLEMENTING ANNUAL STRATEGIES?

 

Without scenario planning it is impossible to develop people and institutions. Unless we know where we want to be in one year’s time, management becomes an unattainable task. I have been working with integrated reporting for eight years now. We consider development on the three P’s: People, Planet and Profits. Alignment becomes easy and the results are amazing.

 

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT DIGITALISATION, THE COMPLEXITIES AND INTRICACIES, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS AROUND THIS AND HOW IT WILL CHANGE THE SHAPE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR AFRICA?

 

My opinion is that whoever does not see the importance of digitalisation today will have some difficulties typical of someone who is trying to do a job without suitable tools. The result is, most often than not, a disappointing one. We have to know that the future is the Internet of Things, Big Data, Smart Meters, Smart Cities, Smart Grids, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, etc. ENEL, the utility of Italy, bought 17 million connections in Brazil in 2019. They started immediately with the digitalisation of the whole system to shorten downtime and to reduce maintenance time and cost. These measures improved the financial performance of that business! Today Africa needs to train people who are able to work within this ecosystem. IBM is helping with a programme called Africa Digital Nation. It is a free platform where training is offered in the above-mentioned areas so that in 10 years’ time the young skilled people of this continent will be able to innovate not only at home but also by holding positions of high responsibility in the global arena.

 

WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?

 

I want to be remembered as a man who spread joy and peace around himself and enjoyed working a lot and making friends.

 

I came to Africa in 1997 with my just-defended PhD. I started working in Makerere and set up a research centre called CREEC – Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation. We worked a lot with GIZ, The World Bank, Sida-SAREC, the government, private sector players such as SMA, ABB, Siemens, etc. In 2010 I moved to Kenya. Here I started working in Strathmore University where we set up another research centre called SERC – Strathmore Energy Research Centre. I put a lot of work into these two research centres, and I enjoyed every bit of it as I am passionate about renewable energy and energy efficiency.

 

The innovations we implemented in these two countries changed, for the better, the lives of many people and instilled passion in my students and colleagues. They eventually joined me in this exciting journey of making this planet a better place and providing better living conditions for people who otherwise would not have access to reliable, affordable and clean energy. As a professional, I think I can leave behind an example of someone who is skilled, passionate and able to get things done.

 

This article was first published on Africa Power & Energy Elites website

Do you know the cost of each meal you cook?

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These were some of the questions a team of staff at the Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) sort to answer during a cooking demonstration held on 22nd January 2021. The team sliced tomatoes, onions, and coriander as well as peeled potatoes, and cooking bananas. Ugali, rice, kales, cabbages, and traditional kienyeji chicken were also prepared. The cooking demonstration was an educative session by SERC Quality Manager, GEng. Anne Wacera Wambugu on the use of AC Electric Pressure Cookers (EPC). Each EPC had an energy monitor provided by Pereybere Energy, who are collaborating with Strathmore University on the electric cooking projects.

 

“The experience was great especially cooking kienyeji chicken in forty minutes and at a cost of Kshs 8.50. The exercise was also a super team-building opportunity as everyone did all they could to ensure the meals were ready on time regardless of the new cooking style.” Martin Mutembei, Project Coordinator, FCDO funded Transforming Energy Access Learning Partnership Program.

 

Starting February, the team from Strathmore and Pereybere will distribute 100 AC EPCs attached to an energy monitor to newly electrified (through the Last Mile Connectivity Project) households in Murangá, Kericho, and Kisumu. They will then track the use of the pressure cookers for 6 months, through an online platform.

 

“Learning how to cook using electric pressure cookers was quite an interesting experience. What I liked more about the whole experience apart from learning different energy profiles of the food we cooked, was seeing the promising sustainable future both economically and environmentally that these electric pressure cookers and the soon to be developed solar cookers will bring.” Lisa Nzeyimana, Project Development Executive, Africa Energy Services Group, Rwanda.

 

The exercise is a combined effort from several electric cooking projects which together will:

  • Document and anticipate any quality challenges that the electric cooking sector might experience now and in the future.
  • Encourage and understand the use of electric pressure cookers by on-grid customers connected by the Last Mile Connectivity Project.
  • Develop an electric cooker suitable for off-grid areas – a project financed by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 under the LEAP-RE project.

 

The cooking demonstration was in preparation for the launch of the data collection exercise early next month.

 

This article was written by Anne Njeri

Making Solar Work

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Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC) and MDF Training and Consulting are implementing a capacity-building project under the Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) which is supported by Nuffic. The project, dubbed Making Solar Work, involves implementing a Tailor-Made Training that aims to build the capacity of the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) and the Arusha Technical College Solar Training Centre (ATCSTC) staff.

 

The first phase began on 1st December 2020 with a three-day field study visit at SERC. During this time, the team had a benchmarking session on the legal and regulatory framework in the energy sector, highlighting training accreditation and licensing of solar technicians and engineers. Later, the participants discussed the solar PV course curricula, training transcripts and training kits used at SERC giving a high-level review of training off-grid solar systems, grid-tie systems, hybrid solar systems and solar water pumping systems.

 

“I have seen a practical solar energy system in Strathmore University that feeds into the grid. That was new for me. I also learnt that in Kenya there is a solar regulatory body and an approved curriculum and certification for solar workers. Upon our return, we will endeavor to work with our government to encourage more solar use in Tanzania” Eng. Urbanus Melkior, a lecturer at ASTSC since 2011.

 

The five will then share their knowledge with fifteen technical trainers and facilitators from vocational training colleges in Arusha, Dar es Salaam, Massai lands, and Moshi.

 

“I have received a training manual that will help as a reference point when I return to Tanzania. I have found that the solar courses here are more advanced and will help me upgrade my existing skills,” said Elvitha Issack, Trainer at TAREA, Solar Department

 

All our training sessions are hands-on and allow every participant a chance to feel and touch the sample solar equipment used for training. Our labs provide a 14kWp PV/genset/storage demonstrational hybrid system which can be operated in battery storage or fuel saver configuration.

 

Would you like to learn more on Solar PV courses? Click this link https://www.strathmore.edu/serc/ to learn more.

 

This article was written by Thomas Bundi and Anne Njeri Njoroge.

EPRA regulations are good but must make solar power safe for all

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There has been a raging debate about the draft Energy (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) Regulations 2020 proposed by Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority which seek to streamline the manufacture, importation, installation and maintenance of solar components and systems.

 

On the outset, it has been understood that these regulations are meant to make consumers stick to the expensive and unreliable national power grid.

 

As a consumer, I can understand why we are on the edge – we have all had unpleasant encounters with Kenya Power with its high bills and unreliable power supply.

 

However, as a professional in the sector, I’d like to point out that the claims that the draft regulations aimed at strangling the sector are founded on sensationalism and are as misleading as the narrative that using solar power is expensive.

 

The 2020 draft regulations are meant to update the 2012 regulations, a process that started in 2018. Simply put, these regulations have been in existence since 2012 and must be updated given the current state of the industry.

 

How do I know about the current state? Well, the things that concern you as you seek to purchase and install solar equipment, are of interest to me and my research partner. In 2019, we decided to find out what those things are, so we travelled to my home county of Trans Nzoia to see for ourselves.

 

In Kitale, we easily found and bought a counterfeit solar power kit at Sh500 after bargaining from Sh800. Later, we bought an original one at Sh700 from elsewhere.

 

For three weeks, we talked to women groups, church groups, bodaboda riders and dairy farmers, and showed them the counterfeit and the original.

 

Few could tell the difference meaning most of them wouldn’t purchase the right product even if they were placed next to each other.

 

The reality is that most of these products aren’t sold next to each other. Original solar kits are mostly found in formal shops in towns like Kitale while counterfeits are sold in roadside stalls and electrical shops in rural areas and are thus, easily accessible.

 

In our case, we called the company’s offices in Nairobi to track down the original product. Sadly and as we found out, some people, such as civil servants in the energy sector, who should know the difference, had no idea too. So, many people buy the counterfeit thinking that they have the original product.

 

We also found households that had failed solar kits which lasted for less than four months, instead of the expected two years. Besides the financial losses, Kenya’s e-waste collection infrastructure is almost non-existent outside Nairobi thus e-waste from failed products is disposed of in pit latrines, in farms or used as toys by children.

 

This is concerning because electronics have hazardous metals with known and unknown health repercussions.

 

To curb this ever-growing menace, the draft EPRA regulations mandate compliance to Kenyan solar standards developed by KEBS and set fines to deter non-compliance.

 

Besides the solar kits I’ve talked about, the Kenyan household solar market also has component-based solar (CBS). Solar kits are bought attached to their own loads (such as bulbs and TVs) and sometimes have a phone’s charging port. You can’t plug your existing loads into kits and shouldn’t try. For this reason, some people opt for CBS, where the components (solar panel, batteries, charge controller, inverter, cables), are “sized” to fit their loads.

 

I have heard stories of, and seen CBS installations with car batteries in place of solar batteries and installations without charge controllers, which led to fires.

 

The “sizing” of household CBS systems involves relatively simple arithmetic but requires practice, hence the mandated completion certificates in the draft regulations, which act as proof of practice. Solar training teaches this arithmetic, alongside electrical safety, mounting of the solar panel on the roof and other considerations that should be made before and after an installation.

 

In the draft regulations, household solar falls under Class SPW1 (minimum KCPE) and SPW2 (minimum KCSE) and the regulations allow an individual to upgrade from one class to the other. Therefore, a person with a KCPE certificate can start from SPW1 where they can install a CBS similar in size to a large solar kit and, move up the classes as they accrue experience and install larger systems.

 

I don’t agree with everything in the draft regulations. For example, professional indemnity requirements should be explained to us before being adopted as a requirement.

 

In a conversation unrelated to the regulations, Kenyan banks noted that Kenyan insurance companies are notorious for not honouring legitimate claims hence insurance can’t be used to de-risk the renewable energy sector.

 

Therefore, transparency is needed as to who will be offering the cover, at what cost, if they’ll honour claims and the consequences they’ll face if legitimate claims aren’t honoured.

 

Outside the regulations, there are concerns about the enforcement capacity of KEBS and EPRA. Both organisations seem to have a relatively small number of engineers compared to what’s needed.

 

Kenya also has limited laboratory infrastructure compared to what’s needed for effective market surveillance, something that will derail the regulations if not resolved.

 

There’s also a need to ensure the availability of training centres, especially in rural communities, and not just in major cities and towns.

 

In terms of implementation, the regulations should be introduced in a phased manner in consultation with all stakeholders.

 

A 2-3 year phase-out of the old regulations is advised, given that the sector is already grappling with the shocks of Covid-19 and the VAT on the sector.

 

This article was written by Anne Wacera and was first published in the Standard.

 

The writer is an electrical engineer and quality and standards expert on solar and electrical appliances.

 

If you have a story, kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu

The Solar Power for Houses and Business Policy Advisory Committee Convene a Stakeholder Workshop

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SPHB Policy Advisory Committee was convened by the National Commission for Science, Technology, and Innovation (NACOSTI) in collaboration with Strathmore University, the University of Nairobi (Institute of Climate Change and Adaptation and Condensed Matter Research Group), KIRDI, NuPEA and KenGen. The advisory committee chaired by Strathmore University through SERC is aimed at fulfilling three main objectives:

  • Explore ways of encouraging households to embrace solar for own use and to sell excess to government through net metering policy.
  • Explore ways of utilizing as much local content and materials as possible in execution of the solar projects.
  • Explore ways of empowering small businesses and jua kali sector to plug in offering simple solutions and consuming the same.

In this regard, the Advisory committee funded by National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and the Newton Fund through the British Council through GENS project hosted the Energy Policy and Innovation in Kenya workshop in which thirty participants both locally and internationally took part on 24th November, 2020. This workshop was to allow various stakeholders in the government, industry, and academia to discuss pathways towards a strategic, market-focused, user-oriented policy that will fast track the adoption of solar energy by households and businesses in Kenya.

 

The key objectives of the workshop were to present findings from the benchmarking exercise; present the framework for stakeholder consultation in the Solar PV industry in Kenya; discuss challenges that hamper the growth of the Solar PV market for households and business in Kenya; and discuss the incentives and support systems that would promote innovation and the uptake of Solar PV technologies at the household, business, county, and national levels.

 

During the consultative sessions, participants were divided into five groups to discuss the questionnaire for different groups: houses, business (SMEs), learning institutions and independent research organizations, policy makers from the government and the private sector, and mini grid developers and financial institutions. Some of the feedback during this session included: how to understand the pricing model of solar material. One group suggested using mystery shopping to collect information as the use of solar energy is a business for most and therefore getting information on pricing can be difficult. Additionally, another group suggested that the questionnaire should be customized for different companies within the supply chain to have a complete overview of the market.

 

“There is a high penetration in the country by company names but there are only a few big multinational companies that dominate the market.” said one participant “which is where I would like to end”. Where in the supply chain do you see yourself participating in the journey to renewable energy at the house-hold, business, county and national level?

 

If you would like to learn more about this, email: gronoh@strathmore.edu

 

This article was compiled by Anne Njeri Njoroge.

 

Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu