Kenya energy agencies in the dark over reported suspension of solar licensing

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Kenya’s energy regulator and renewable energy department have both said they are unaware of reported plans by the East African country’s government to suspend the licensing of new solar farms.

Last week Kenya’s energy secretary Davis Chirchir apparently told Bloomberg news that the licensing of new solar and wind farms in Kenya would be suspended until 2017 in favour of other energy sources, in an effort to drive down electricity costs.

But PV Tech has learned that neither of the two key bodies in setting and implementing renewable energy policy in Kenya has been informed of any changes to licensing rules.

Speaking to PV Tech, Geoffrey Kika a spokesman at the Department of Renewable Energy in the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, said the department was “not aware” and had had “no directions” of any changes or suspensions to solar generation licensing.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Energy Regulation Commission (ERC) in Kenya confirmed licensing for solar farm developments was still following current procedures and any solar farm applications submitted now would follow normal licensing regulations.

Director of renewable energy at ERC, Pavel Robert Omieke, told PV Tech he could not confirm a suspension or comment on any changes to renewables licensing, though he would not explicitly deny the reports, which PV Tech has been unable to verify with the energy ministry.

Kenya Renewable Energy Association (Kerea) administrator, Cliff Owiti, said Kerea had also not been informed of any suspensions to renewable energy generation licences.

Owiti confirmed confidence in stable solar regulation in Kenya, and that any changes or suspending to licensing would “be tricky”, because of large private sector investments in training technicians, starting solar companies and solar generation projects.

Since confirming a solar feed-in tariff of US$0.12 last year, Kenya has been inviting bids to build large-scale PV projects with a view to deploying around 300MW of large-scale solar capacity.

In September, the Kenyan government launched a drive to build 5,000MW of new electricity generating capacity within 40 months, with a large part of this expected to come from renewables.

But Bloomberg’s reported conversation with Chirchir suggested the government now wants 80% of the new capacity to come from coal, liquid natural gas and geo-thermal power, with renewables only accounting for around 15%. The report said wind and solar projects underway had already filled that quota.

Additional reporting by Ben Willis. PV Tech will update this story as it develops.

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