Off-grid lighting and energy products offer consumers many advantages over conventional alternatives, and at a lower life-cycle cost.
Nonetheless, the up-front costs of a solar lantern – let alone a Solar Home System – are comparatively high, and most consumers simply cannot afford to purchase something that does not meet expectations, or is prone to early breakage. Meg Harper, Lighting Global Research Engineer
In order to protect consumers from poor-quality products and to promote consumer confidence, Lighting Africa developed a series of Quality Standards and testing methods for pico-PV lanterns. Building on our success in Africa, our program has since been replicated in other areas of the world and our quality assurance work is now conducted by our affiliated program, Lighting Global. As the market developed and products evolved, the Quality Standards and test methods were also expanded to cover plug-and-play solar home system kits up to 100 W.
In order to meet our standards, products are tested against a baseline level of quality, durability, and truth-in-advertising. Products must also carry a warranty. Lighting Africa works exclusively with products that meet Lighting Global Quality Standards.
Globally adopted standards and tests
The test methods used to assess the Lighting Global Quality Standards have been adopted by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) as a reference point for quality assurance of off-grid lighting products (IEC Technical Specification 62257-9-5). Additionally, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires that solar lighting products meet this specification in order to qualify for carbon financing (CDM).
These Standards are also being adopted by some national governments. Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia have adopted, or are in the process of adopting, national standards that are harmonized with the Lighting Global Quality Standards. Nigeria and other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are likely to adopt similar standards soon.
In many cases, governments have created favorable policies for products meeting these standards, for example by reducing or eliminating import tariffs, meaning that consumers can purchase quality-verified products at a lower price. In other cases, quality-verified products may qualify for specific financing options, such as through bulk procurement schemes via the Rural Renewable Energy Agency in Liberia, or by accessing the Development Bank of Ethiopia’s financing facility.
Through adoption of our Standards and these kinds of accompanying measures, national governments in Africa are helping to boost the availability of high-quality off-grid solar lighting and energy products – and at an affordable price for consumers.