ERC faces tough choices over solar water heaters law

Solar water heating systems
Solar water heating systems.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is set to make tough decisions regarding the enforcement of a law requiring landlords to install solar water heaters on their buildings amid low levels of compliance and numerous legal challenges.

The Energy (Solar Water Heating) Regulations of 2012 compel property owners to install solar water heaters on commercial and residential buildings whose occupants use more than 100 litres of hot water a day.

The directive requires new buildings, alterations or extensions to be fitted with solar water heating systems before use.

“A person who breaches this law commits an offense and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, or to both,” ERC said in a legal notice dated April 4, 2012.

In addition to the installation of solar water heaters, the directive requires landlords to conduct energy audits every three years and they must implement at least half of the audit recommendations within three years.

ERC gave property owners up to May 25, 2017, to comply failing which they would be liable to a fine of Sh1 million or a jail term of one year. The deadline was then extended to November 25 to allow more people to comply with the law.

The extension has, however, yielded little fruit with a recent study by the ERC indicating that only about 77,000 solar water heating systems have been installed countrywide.

Property owners have often cited high costs of the systems as a hindrance to increased uptake.

Construction Kenya has learnt that the regulator is now weighing its option on whether to move in and enforce the directive or to extend the grace period by another six months.

If ERC chooses the easier route – extending the grace period – the regulator will have a hard time convincing the public that it has the capacity to implement its directive, which could lead to more depressing levels of compliance.

On the other hand, if the regulator moves to enforce the law, it is likely to face tough legal battles with landlords considering that several cases challenging the directive have already been filed in court.

The energy regulator could not comment on this story.