National Governments Embrace New IEC Quality Standards for Solar Energy Kits
Ten countries in sub-Saharan Africa are in the process of adopting and implementing the quality standards for standalone renewable energy products published by the IEC in June 2020 (IEC TS 62257-9-8). Adoption in countries with large solar markets – such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda – sends a clear signal to manufacturers and the sector as a whole that product quality and durability matter.
Several governments with mature solar markets are implementing compulsory adoption of the IEC standards, which requires solar energy kits imported, assembled or manufactured in their country to meet the standards. Through conformity assessment, market surveillance and enforcement of compulsory standards, governments can protect consumers from poor-quality products. Countries with more nascent solar markets are opting for voluntary adoption, which facilitates integrating harmonized quality requirements into energy access interventions and programs. The voluntary approach can promote market growth for good-quality solar products and is a stepping stone towards compulsory standards.
As the standards are adopted more widely, new opportunities emerge to improve energy access, protect consumers and grow markets. Harmonized standards allow suppliers to design, manufacture, and test their new products a single time for sales in multiple markets. This harmonization enables companies to get innovative new products to market faster and at lower cost, yielding significant benefits for consumers. With harmonized standards, governments and other institutions can streamline conformity assessment to cooperate regionally and globally on product testing, product registration, and market surveillance. This Technical Note describes additional benefits that standards harmonization can bring to consumers, governments, the private sector, financial institutions and development agencies.
Increased uptake of the IEC standards is certainly a positive indicator for the off-grid solar sector. However, this also presents some challenges and potential risks. Chief among these is transitioning to the IEC standards without inhibiting the flow of high-quality solar products to consumers. Both governments and private sector companies are encouraged to be proactive:
- Governments should allow manufacturers a reasonable amount of time to recertify their products according to the IEC quality standards, as described in this Technical Note.
- Producers of solar energy kits should certify their products to the IEC standards as soon as possible to ensure uninterrupted market access.
- Importers and distributors can also facilitate the transition by pressing their suppliers to certify their products to the new IEC standards.
To learn more about testing and certifying products using the IEC test methods and quality standards, please refer to our certification page.