On February 18, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) hosted a workshop for electricians and registered electrical contractors at Kenya School of Monitory Studies in Ruaraka, in an effort to raise awareness on matters of safety, legal procedures, and standards in the electricity sector. Representatives of various institutions including; Kenya Power and Lighting, Rural Electrification Authority, Institution of Engineering Technologists, Ministry of Energy & Petroleum, Institution of Engineers of Kenya, and several others attended the workshop. Also in attendance were independent electricians and electrician constructors in Nairobi and neighbouring counties.
The workshop was one in a series that the ERC is planning on holding, other areas in which workshops will be held include; Mombasa, Eldoret and Nanyuki.
Although ERC has not always been in the spotlight for positive reasons, ERC Director General Joseph Ng’ang’a assured that ERC has embraced transparency, both a systematic and credible approach in their effort to regulate the industry. The ERC Director General also announced that the commissioned had established a quality mandate document system to provide orderly operation of business on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, information and services of the ERC can now be accessed online making it easier and more convenient for the public as well as regulated entities.
According the Ng’ang’a, the enactment of the new constitution, re-alignment and creation of the institution, development and technological advances have made a workshop such as the ERC workshop necessary. The chance of the electric sector to get together, Ng’ang’a added, to share experience and clarify respective roles is pivotal in improving the quality of life for Kenyan citizens.
“Self-regulation is the best practice, because as practitioners we know where the shoes pinches us the most, nobody can take care of our interest better than us. The regulator cannot be everywhere all the time; I therefore urge us to safeguard our practice at all cost. Let us devise authorised ways to fight the greatest enemies of electrical installation works in this country; quacks masquerading as practitioners, counterfeit materials and professional malpractices,” urged ERC DG. Joseph Ng’ang’a.
These issues of quacks, counterfeit materials and malpractices were addressed by various speakers including ERC chairperson Eng. Mrs. Emma Kiilu, Kenya Power Deputy Manager Emelda Odhiambo and several others. There is a prevalence of quacks in the electric sector, who pose as licensed electrical practitioners. These quacks end up causing harm to professional practitioners by tarnishing their names and works as well as conducting unsafe installations, which end up harming citizens. In most cases, Kenyans are not aware that these are quacks, and ERC urged that before giving work for electrical installation, Kenyans should ask for licenses. Moreover, Engineer Buge Wasioya urged that electricians and registered electrical contractors streamline their industry to prevent quacks from entering their industry.
“Electricians and electrical contractors allow quacks to get into your business and you assist them to thrive and then you start crying that your business is being invaded by quacks. If you talk about other professions like lawyers in judiciary, do we have any quacks that practice laws in the country? No, because [lawyers] will not allow it. I think we all need to be serious; like perhaps streamline our industries or create a database of all contractors,” explained Emelda Odhiambo to the present electricians and contractors.
She went on to explain that new flagship projects, and Kenya Power target of connecting one million customers by this year (30th June) will create more than enough jobs for everyone, and corruption should never be the answer. In addition, the Government has a goal of increasing the country’s national power output to 5,000 megawatts by 2016, which will create an overwhelming amount of work for electricians and contractors. As explained by Engineer Buge Wasioya, there is also a strategy by the Kenyan government to increase electricity access from 32% to 70% by 2017, and hopefully in 2020, everyone will have access to electricity. Thus as Engineer Buge Wasioya pointed out, electricians need to start paying attention to laws, like the current Energy Act, electric power installation rules, so that professionalism is maintained for the sake of development in the country.
Several solutions were provided during the workshop to curb incompetency and improve the electrical engineering profession. These solutions included the creation of an umbrella organization for the field, for professionals to come together recommend and discuss issues. Also policies to widen the definition of electrical installation to add supply lines are being put in place. Others included, streamlining the industry, creating a database, creating of an online portal by Kenya Power to curb corruption, which is in place already.
“Electricians and electrical contractors have a big role to ensure that we as professionals are responsible and competent,” concluded ERC DG. Joseph Ng’ang’a.