On 10th December 2012, twenty tutors from ten technical training institutions countrywide gathered at the Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology (IEET) for a two-week intensive course on solar photovoltaics (PV). The training was jointly facilitated by Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA) and BRIGHT project. Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA) is an independent non-profit association dedicated to facilitating the growth and development of the renewable energy business in Kenya.
In a country where only about 20 percent of the population has access to electricity, the use of renewable energy (RE) to provide sufficient and efficient energy is critical for Kenya’s development and transition into a middle income country as envisioned by Vision 2030. Furthermore, the supply of reliable energy especially in the rural areas is an urgent need in this country. Solar, wind, clean biomass and small hydro are promising alternatives being explored countrywide to meet the growing energy demands in an environmentally friendly manner. However, competent technicians and engineers capable of manufacturing, installing and maintaining RE systems to harness energy from nature are lacking in the country. In a needs assessment study commissioned by the BRIGHT Project in last year, it was found that in tertiary training institutions surveyed nationally, only about 15% of the lecturers in electrical engineering and other related departments are trained in RE technologies. Further still, the quality and quantity of training equipment in most institutions is largely inadequate with about a third of them lacking any RE training equipment. The Kenyan government has taken an active role to enable the development of alternative sources of energy. In September 2012, the government gazetted THE ENERGY (SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS) REGULATIONS, 2012. The new regulations stipulate that all technicians involved in the installation of solar PVs must acquire a license from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) after undertaking an industrial trade test to be administered by the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA). This will ensure that the quality of the solar installations in the country is up to standard and the installations will not fail the consumers who sacrifice to invest in this form of renewable energy.
In response to the above requirement, and in order to give the technicians a reliable and accessible opportunity for quality training, KEREA consulted widely with other stakeholders in the RE sector to develop a comprehensive curriculum for technical training institutes (TTIs) on solar PV. Presently, solar PV is not offered as an independent course in these institutions but rather as a unit in the electrical engineering curriculum under the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) syllabus. KEREA, through the help of other stakeholders is supplying the institutes with appropriate equipment to ensure that the technicians get hands-on practical knowledge of the technology. KEREA also partnered with BRIGHT project to provide a ToT course for the tutors in the TTIs in order to efficiently roll out hands-on training to the technicians.
BRIGHT Project facilitated the development of this intensive ToT course by convening experts from the IEET, Electrical & Electronic Engineering department of JKUAT and in consultation with other local and international experts in solar PV technology. BRIGHT Project also prepared the training materials and equipment used for the training and ensured that the course was free for the first 20 tutors drawn from ten tertiary institutions countrywide. The tutors who undertake the ToT course will offer short courses in their respective institutions to meet the current demand of about solar PV technicians expected to be licensed countrywide.
One of the participants in the training course, Mr. S.O. Diero from Ramogi Institute of Advanced Technology (RIAT) in Kisumu had this to say about the course: “It has really exposed us more to this area of solar PV technology and especially on the practical aspects and application in the rural setting.”
The Director of IEET at JKUAT, Dr. R. Kinyua, who is also the Project Manager of BRIGHT project expressed his gratitude to all the organizers of the ToT. “I am very glad that this ToT course was successful and I thank all the people who have been working hard behind the scenes to make it so. Through BRIGHT project, we want to make JKUAT, and specifically IEET the hub for renewable energy in Kenya, and this ToT course is a step in the right direction.” In the future, IEET will be holding the course regularly for tutors from other institutions and other interested parties.
her interested parties.