Highlights from the 2022 Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo

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Last month, the VeraSol team joined over 1,000 attendees from across the globe at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum & Expo in Kigali, Rwanda. We showcased our program alongside over 60 exhibitors and participated in several sessions – including hosting a VeraSol Stakeholder’s Meeting on October 20, 2022. Throughout the week, the VeraSol team also met with representatives from government agencies, manufacturers, distributors and industry partners to learn how our services serve the sector, share information on new areas we are working on and seek input on what we can improve.

Overall, we heard from these discussions that quality assurance (QA) remains vital to the off-grid solar sector and that the VeraSol team’s expertise continues to offer value to various stakeholders. Read on for more specific takeaways.

Product certification

Our certification and testing team interviewed over 20 representatives from product manufacturers and distributors that have engaged VeraSol for testing and certification. Through these discussions, our team gathered insights on how our services offer value to the companies, what they think we are doing well and what additional resources or services they would like from VeraSol.

What VeraSol is doing well

  • Companies value the promotion of quality standards for off-grid solar products by VeraSol as it provides a strong foundation for distributing durable and high-performing products to consumers.
  • Increased engagement with China-based companies through WeChat, informational webinars and support from Shenzhen Academy of Metrology and Quality Inspection (SMQ) and VeraSol test lab partner in China. One company shared that they found the marketing and program information about VeraSol shared in this 2021 webinar in China very valuable and would like to see more of this.
  • Companies acknowledge that VeraSol provides credibility for quality products, and they use our website to show customers proof that products are tested and of good quality.
  • Companies confirmed that they routinely refer to the VeraSol Product Database for product evaluation and comparison. For example, one company reported using our data to identify a partner for product importation, signalling that VeraSol-certified products are trusted.
  • Companies appreciate co-branding, which allows them to reference test results for certified products that are the same, but with different branding. This helps the companies reduce the time and costs related to certification.

Suggested areas of improvement and growth

  • A shorter and more efficient testing process, for example, by digitising the process and increasing the capacity of test labs.
  • Reducing the costs for product testing and certification.
  • Including more detailed product information on the database, such as how many products can fit on a pallet, purchase options for appliances, country-level information on where products are sold, etc.
  • Development of more technical resources that companies can share with customers to provide detailed information on product components.
  • Greater availability of in-country testing for appliances to support technology incubation.

Government engagement

VeraSol’s policy support team participated in the Community of Champions event and held multilateral meetings with representatives from over a dozen national governments, two regional bodies, and development partners. After nearly two years of being limited to virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Forum was a much-needed opportunity for us to reconnect with these key stakeholders.

Our approach to engaging with governments promotes dialogue while empowering them with the policy and technical guidance needed to strengthen standards adoption and implementation – ensuring that consumers have access to durable and quality products. Our meetings with government representatives and development partners at the Forum highlighted that VeraSol should prioritise the following to enrich our value proposition to the sector:

  • Deep-diving on our work in fragile and conflict-affected countries to build technical capacity, ensure that foundational elements of a QA framework are in place, and link quality to voluntary programs.
  • Providing support for implementing national standards through high-impact practices such as conformity assessment, market surveillance, product registry databases, and standards enforcement.
  • Incorporating support services for energy systems in public facilities, particularly healthcare centres and schools.
  • Further expanding the breadth of our technical assistance to QA frameworks for component-based solar home systems and productive uses of energy.
  • Building technical capacity at the regional level to facilitate the adoption of internationally harmonised standards and to demonstrate strategies for a regional approach to QA for off-grid solar.

Quality Assurance for Productive Use of Energy (PUE) technologies

PUE technologies were centre-stage at this year’s Forum, with several sessions focused on the benefits and developments in PUE. We heard from the PUE discussions that there is an increasing prioritisation to deliver PUE technologies to consumers by addressing the current access barriers. For example, financing facilities that support PUE, including two just launched by CLASP and partners Nithio and GreenMax Capital Advisors at the Forum, will accelerate PUE adoption by offering consumer financing and technical support for PUE companies.

Learn more about the financing facilities:

Our team also noted a general interest from stakeholders in procuring, testing, or certifying appliances such as electric pressure cookers, refrigerators, and solar water pumps. VeraSol tests and shares data about these products on the VeraSol Product Database, and we are currently working on launching a certification program for off- and weak-grid refrigerators. Companies also signalled an interest in receiving performance data to procure nascent PUE technologies such as egg incubators. VeraSol tests egg incubators and other nascent PUE through the Rapid Product Assessment and will share this data on the VeraSol Product Database in early 2023.

We thank GOGLA and Lighting Global for organising the Forum and bringing together a diverse range of off-grid solar stakeholders. We look forward to building on our learnings from the event to deliver even more value.