With an aim to promote clean energy and reduce electricity costs, Kenya is one of the countries leading Africa's push toward solar energy. Roselle Chen reports.
This is one of a handful of housing developments in Kenya promoting solar powered homes in the country. Greenpark was founded in 2006 and the 150-acre estate has 400 units all fitted with solar panels for water heating. Each solar unit costs about 800 U.S. dollars to install. SOUNDBITE (English) MANAGING DIRECTOR, STEELSTONE KENYA LIMITED, ARVINDER GHATAURA, SAYING: "The use of solar, with the developers are now, everyone is making sure that they install a solar system during the time of building, so this has worked to the advantage of solar contractors in Kenya and which in turn means more business for us but in the same time that doesn't mean we start providing poor quality services, so as a company we always ensure that we give you good service and good quality." Residents say the panels have helped cut electricity costs by nearly half. SOUNDBITE (English) GREENPARK ESTATE RESIDENT, RUTH NG'ANG'A, SAYING: "Basically it is a very energy saving product that we have because we are able to have hot water throughout the day depending on the usage and also in the night, yeah so we don't have to put power on, we always have hot water whichever time you need during the day and normally we are able to use the water for washing for cleaning and also for the bathrooms." Kenya is one of the countries leading Africa's push toward solar energy use. Experts say fast-dropping costs for solar power, combined with plenty of sun and a huge need for cheaper electricity holds huge economic potential. SOUNDBITE (English) CORPORATE SERVICES MANAGER, KENYA CLIMATE INNOVATION CENTRE, ERNEST CHITECHI, SAYING: "Solar energy is viable in Kenya, Kenya lying on the equator has some of the best solar installations in the globe, I think it is about 4.5 kilowatts per hour which is actually very good and if the solar energy is well harnessed it will actually help in stability of our grid, particularly when we have solar during the day." The country's Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has said property developers must now install solar water heaters in buildings where occupants use over 100 liters of hot water a day by May this year, following a regulation that came into force in 2012. Kenya also plans to launch a $150 million project this year to bring solar electricity to markets, schools, shops and homes in poor, off-grid areas without existing power access.