Portable Solar Lamp Passes Quality Tests

indiaAn award-winning portable solar lamp, the SUNLITE JS30-MOB, has been successfully tested and meets the rigorous Lighting Global Minimum Quality Standards.

The lamp is the product of a socially driven manufacturer, India Impex (SUNLITE), which joins a growing number of companies committed to developing and marketing high quality lighting products for families in Africa and Asia that are not connected to grid electricity.

The lamp has an inbuilt solar panel that provides more than 5 hours of lighting after a full day of charging in the sun.

The SUNLITE JS30-MOB is also able to charge a mobile phone and comes with a 12 month warranty. In 2012, the lamp emerged winner of the AidEx Innovation Challenge for providing a robust, affordable, lighting solution to the aid and development sector.

New Minimum Quality Standards Become Effective on January 1, 2014

standarsThe updated Lighting Global Minimum Quality Standards for off-grid lighting products go into effect on January 1, 2014. However, existing products tested under the current standards will retain their “passed” status until their test results expire.

The Minimum Quality Standards for LED-based off-grid lighting products have been updated with major changes in recent months in response to industry trends and stakeholder views.

The major change to the framework is the removal of the public-facing Recommended Performance Targets. This is in recognition that the market has matured to a point where the public performance targets are no longer needed.

The updated minimum quality standards also introduce a new performance reporting requirement for light output and daily run time. This new requirement is intended to provide consumers with reliable information about product performance at the time of purchase.

The performance reporting requirements are expected to go into effect by mid-2014 after planned consultations with stakeholders.

Other key changes are the ban of use of batteries with cadmium or mercury. The minimum quality standards also require for all batteries used in off-grid lighting products to pass a battery storage durability test.

In addition, all LED-based off-grid lighting products will be required to have a consumer facing warranty of at least 12 months from time of purchase.

SunnyMoney Sales Soar to Record Levels

At least One Solar Lantern Sold Every Minute in Past 12 Months

Leading distributor of clean affordable lights in Africa, SunnyMoney, sold one solar light every minute in Africa in the last 12 months, data just in shows.

Head Teachers meet SunnyMoney at Nzega Primary School, Tanzania,to collect solar lights purchased for the community. © Ashden

Head Teachers meet SunnyMoney at Nzega Primary School, Tanzania,to collect solar lights purchased for the community. © Ashden

The social enterprise’s CEO Steve Andrews says SunnyMoney managed to sell 532,368 lights in the 12 months ending October 2013 through a distribution model targeted at schools. This represents an increase of more than 250% over sales recorded in 2012.

“SunnyMoney’s unique model of selling through schools is having a bigger impact than any of us could ever have imagined.  We’ve seen dramatic increases in sales since coming into the market just five years ago,” says Andrews. “That a mother, father, student or teacher takes a light home, and it is switched on at night to cleanly and safely light a home means that the message is really getting out there.”

SunnyMoney uses an innovative business model to sell solar lights in off-grid areas in Africa with a goal to end dependency on the costly and dangerous kerosene by 2020. It hopes to accomplish this by providing a reliable supply of affordable clean lighting products in rural villages not connected to national electricity grids.

Since launching in 2008, the distributor has sold more than 730,000 units of quality portable solar lights to off-grid families in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia.

There is a wide variety of solar-powered lights available in Africa priced from about $10, for study lights and torches/flashlights to just over $100 dollars for multi-room lighting systems.

SunnyMoney has found that families can save between 10 and 20 percent of their monthly income (amounting to about $78/year) by switching from using kerosene lanterns to portable solar lights.

“Our Impact research shows the money saved is spent on better nutrition, school fees, starting a business and farm inputs,” says SunnyMoney’s Global Marketing Director, Cindy Kerr. “A solar light not only replaces dangerous, expensive kerosene; it also lifts people out of the cycle of poverty.”

SunnyMoney is one of the companies that works with Lighting Africa to expand the market for clean lights, and has received business advisory support, including market insights, from the Lighting Africa program.

Schneider Electric Brings Fourth Solar Lighting Product to Market

Schneider Electric In-Diya 2: LED Solar Home Lighting System (2.5W)

Schneider Electric In-Diya 2: LED Solar Home Lighting System (2.5W)

Schneider Electric has successfully tested a fourth solar lighting product which after a day of solar charging, provides bright lighting for up to 13 hours daily.

This light, the In-Diya 2 LED Solar Home Lighting System, boasts the longest run time of the four Schneider Electric off-grid lighting products so far tested by Lighting Global.

It has a single array of 21 LED bulbs which provide 250 lumens of bright lighting.

It comes with a one-year warranty on the lamp and battery backup unit, while the solar panel has a 10-year warranty.

Database for Barriers to Market Entry for Energy Products

The United Nations Foundation is creating an Import Tariff and Barriers to Entry Database as a consolidated effort in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and the World Bank Group, to provide a comprehensive overview of import duties and barriers to entry for sustainable energy products at the country level.

The database addresses the common struggle of sustainable energy product importers to navigate initial entry into emerging markets due to their unfamiliarity with the tax regime, nuanced not-tariff barriers, and the local commercial climate.

The database will serve as a starting reference for organizations interested in comparing and entering sustainable energy markets in developing countries. In particular, this project focuses on products associated with the distributed generation of renewable energy sources

Minimum Quality Standards Revised to Deliver Better Consumer Value

Initial quality screening of a lighting product at the University of Nairobi, Kenya © Andres Bifani/Lighting Africa

Initial quality screening of a lighting product at the University of Nairobi, Kenya © Andres Bifani/Lighting Africa

The Minimum Quality Standards for off-grid lighting products have been revised to encourage production of higher quality, safer products that better serve and protect consumers.

The revised quality standards, which come into effect in January 2014, ban the use on batteries containing cadmium or mercury in line with an EU ban on the use of these highly toxic pollutants.

The European Parliament Environment Committee in March this year voted for a phase out of mercury in button cells batteries by 2014 and cadmium in batteries for cordless power tools (CPTs) by 2015.

“In response to stakeholder feedback and market trends, the team has also decided to transition away from a public emphasis on Performance Targets and instead move toward a system where consumers can compare products based on advertised performance metrics,” says Lighting Global.

Other changes to the minimum standards for off-grid lights include an increase in the warranty term for products to one year, improvements to the lumen (brightness and runtime) maintenance criteria, inclusion of a battery durability test, and a requirement that all PV modules be protected from water ingress.

Lighting Global has also updated the product standard specification sheets (SSS) issued after a product has undergone quality testing, and released a new policy and guidelines for the SSS.

The new SSS policy now requires any product highlighted on the Lighting Global, Lighting Africa and/or Lighting Asia websites to make product SSS’ publicly accessible. These changes will become effective on November 15, 2013.

IEC, World Bank and UN Foundation announce rural electrification support for developing countries

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Foundation have announced a cooperative agreement that will enable developing countries access important technical documents that support rural electrification, at specially discounted prices.

The documents include the Quality Assurance Framework for solar powered off-grid lighting products, which has been used by the Lighting Africa and Lighting Asia programs to avert market spoilage by products of unverified quality.

The off-grid lighting quality assurance framework was originally developed through the Lighting Africa program, and it was adopted by IEC in a process that involved funding support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Global LEAP.

The tripartite agreement is providing discounts of between 50 and 75 percent depending on the specific document purchased, to qualified stakeholders.

The documents are part of IEC’s Technical Specification 62257 series titled Recommendations for small renewable energy and hybrid systems for rural electrification, which outlines international best practices for improving energy access in developing countries using a range of technologies.

“When developing countries use internationally recognized technical specifications it allows them to secure long-term sustainability of investments, as well as interoperability and safety of the products they are installing,” according to a press statement posted on the IEC website.

The adoption and use of internationally accepted standards and technical specifications also helps ensure that product components work together properly and that businesses dealing in the off-grid sector are able to deliver reliable products and systems.

The IEC 62257 series contains technical specifications which address three main topics:

  1. introduction to rural electrification;
  2. project management and implementation guidelines; and
  3. technical specifications for components and systems.

The IEC TS 62257 series also provides project implementers with information on how to select the best product from a variety available in their local markets, the best suited quality tests for specific market conditions, and technical and economic aspects of energy products and systems.

Preventing Electronic Corrosion in Solar Lights

Lighting Global has published the 14th issue of the Technical Briefing Notes titled “Protection from the Elements Part III: Corrosion of Electronics“. This is the third article in a four-part series examining the environmental durability of pico-powered lighting products.

The article describes the chemical processes and environmental mechanisms of electronic corrosion in a solar lighting system, and provides steps manufacturers can take to increase the corrosion resistance of their products.

It notes that most pico‐powered lighting products are exposed to intense sunlight and heat on a daily basis. They are also continually moved around because of their portability rendering them vulnerable to drops and spills.

Furthermore, they get dirty from ground contact and rough handling, and many will be exposed to water in the form of rainfall, moisture in the air, and groundwater contact making their components vulnerable to corrosion.

“The electronic nature of pico‐powered lighting products coupled with their typical service environment creates an atmosphere that can be very conducive to corrosion. The batteries, electronic circuit boards, LED lights, and multiple external connectors (for wires between product components) are all potentially vulnerable,” says the Note.

It concludes that proper system design, manufacturing controls, and product testing are key to prevention of corrosion of electronic components.

Other Briefing Notes in the “Protection from the Elements” series examine water ingress, drip loops, and heat/radiation exposure.

Lighting Global remains committed to addressing relevant consumer and industry concerns. Topics may be suggested at any time by emailing: research@lightingafrica.org

Help Define the Future of Lighting Africa

A woman in Dakar does some evening beadwork with one of the off-grid lights that are lighting the nights across Africa © Bruno Demeocq/Lighting Africa

A woman in Dakar does some evening beadwork with one of the off-grid lights that are lighting the nights across Africa © Bruno Demeocq/Lighting Africa

For the past five years, the Lighting Africa program has been working to develop markets for affordable off-grid lighting in Africa.

We are now looking to expand the program to another four countries.

As a member of the off-grid lighting community, we value your feedback that will inform the design and shape of the next phase of the program.

We kindly request that you spare 8-9 minutes to complete a survey that will help us shape the expanded program.

Your responses will be kept confidential as all data will be presented in a consolidated format.

If you have questions about the survey process, please contact Ken Kimathi at kkimathi@ifc.org. Thank you for your participation; we greatly appreciate your input.

Follow us on twitter @lightingafrica for news, updates and developments in the Lighting Africa program, and the wider off-grid energy access sector.

Two new portable solar lights meet quality standards

The Wakawaka Light

The Wakawaka Light

Two new solar lighting products have passed the rigorous Lighting Global quality tests and meet the recommended performance targets.

The new entrants will increase the market share of high performing quality-verified lighting products retailing in Africa.

The just released Lighting Africa Market Trends Report 2012 shows that more and more manufacturers are now bringing to market products that meet quality standards and consumer preferences.

The report shows that quality-verified products now command about a third of Africa’s off-grid lighting market, as consumers seek more durable, high performing lighting products.

The first product, WakaWaka Light is a portable, durable lamp that offers light at its high brightness setting for close to 9 hours after a single day of solar charging. At the lower light setting, the lamp can light up a room for up to 18 hours.

solar back and led light
Micromark Compact LED solar light 

The WakaWaka Light is marketed both through a new social venture and the WakaWaka Foundation .

The second product is the Compact LED Solar Light, a portable lantern which has an inbuilt solar panel. When fully charged, this compact light will light a room for about four hours. It is manufactured by Micromark

The Market Trends Report also found that average product performance improved by about 140% between 2009 and 2012, batteries now on average lasting about 6 hours while product brightness increased by some 30%.