VeraSol Provides Technical Support Across Sub-Saharan Africa
With the growth of the off-grid solar market, quality standards are increasingly important to ensure that countries in sub-Saharan Africa are not flooded with low-quality products that undermine consumer confidence. VeraSol has joined the Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility to support the development of quality standards and implementation procedures in fourteen countries across the continent.
In sub-Saharan Africa, where governments and the private sector are increasingly forced to find creative solutions for the 600 million people who lack basic electricity services, there is growing evidence that off-grid energy solutions are steadily gaining recognition. More than 15 million solar photovoltaic (PV) products have been sold across the region to date, providing millions of households with their basic lighting and energy needs.
In recognition of the growing importance of alternative energy solutions, governments across Africa are embracing standalone solar systems to meet their universal electrification targets. There are, however, impediments in many of the markets in the region that must be addressed. One of the key barriers is the lack of quality standards to protect consumers and markets from an influx of low-quality solar products.
Demand for VeraSol’s quality verification services is growing. The quality assurance (QA) team reported an increase of 50% in the annual number of testing agreements signed from 2017 to 2019. To better serve the market, VeraSol works closely with its partners to improve and expand quality assurance services and testing capacity across sub-Saharan Africa.
The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) (now a part of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) developed the Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility (ACE-TAF) program to respond to this challenge. The program covers fourteen countries and aims to address a host of barriers that make markets unattractive to potential manufacturers and distributors. To support the roll out of market development activities, DFID requested the International Finance Corporation (IFC) operate as a strategic advisor and leverage the experiences and lessons learned from across the ten Lighting Africa/Global programs in Asia and Africa, especially in the implementation of the quality assurance program.
Leveraging its expertise in off-grid solar quality assurance, VeraSol has joined the program as quality assurance (QA) manager to support the IFC and program manager Coffey International Development in implementing the QA component of the program. Members of the VeraSol team will work with governments to adopt IEC/Lighting Global standards under their regulatory frameworks and set up five solar testing lab facilities in five countries across the continent.
In early 2020 the VeraSol team traveled around the continent to join ACE country managers in meetings with standards bodies and other government representatives and to make presentations on the role of quality assurance in market development. Quality assurance encompasses the entire process of validating that products reaching the market are durable, reliable and cost-effective.
At the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum & Expo in February, the VeraSol team met with representatives from several ACE-TAF countries. The forum offered further opportunity to engage in conversation around the adoption and implementation of quality standards. The team also attended a meeting of the ACE-TAF Country Managers in Zambia.
The VeraSol team is delivering QA trainings to the ACE-TAF Country Managers and will continue to support them in their engagement with national governments on quality standards over the next two years.