Cellphone based solar dealers accreditation initiative

Although the Kenyan solar PV market is often considered as a successful commercially driven market, market spoilage due to poor quality of products as well as design, installation and maintenance services has significantly hindered market growth.

A field inspection and testing study of installed systems was undertaken by Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA) in 2009 and covered 76 randomly selected systems across 7 provinces. It revealed that for only 48% of the surveyed systems did the users feel that the system had met their expectations. Technical assessment of these systems further revealed that only 36% were properly installed and only 10% we correctly designed.  

Focus group discussions undertaken by Lighting Africa, IFC World Bank as part of the awareness campaign for off grid lighting products also revealed that the consumer perception of solar PV is that it was expensive and doesn’t work.

UNDP is supporting the Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA) to implement a raft of measures, revolving around a voluntary accreditation framework for off grid lighting product businesses in Kenya. This is expected to address the issues of quality of the products and associated after sales services, information provision for consumers and access to products and services. This program is financed by Sustainable Energy Services for Africa (SESA) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), through the DFID Funded UN Joint Project on Climate Change. The campaign runs till the end of January, 2016

With the objective of reducing market spoilage, increasing consumer confidence and improve access of quality solar PV products (components such as panels, batteries etc.) and services (warranties, design, installation etc) as a viable electrification option, KEREA developed the processes for the voluntary accreditation framework for solar PV businesses in Kenya to consist of:

  • Developing a criterion for accreditation of renewable energy product and service providers that would be based on e.g. businesses adhering to an agreed upon code of conduct, selling a certain quality of products and having certain verifiable technical capacity/skills. This was done through a consultative process and will build on the Lighting Africa accreditation brand.

  • Promoting the accreditation system to solar PV businesses country wide and providing guidance on what they need to do to meet the accreditation criteria.

  • Receiving applications from interested businesses and implementing the auditing and testing process for these businesses. This would include e.g. testing of randomly selected products, visits to selected installed systems to check design and installation standards

  • Design and development of a mobile based tool through which households can access information on accredited solar PV vendors and technicians.

  • Promotion of accredited businesses, engineers or technicians to the public and potential markets through branding and marketing the mobile based tool on press, media, awareness campaigns and the KEREA website.

  • Developing and implementing sustainable process of regular and continuous monitoring and verification which would include a feedback/complaints desk.                                                            

The program offers consumers/general public with an easier, convenient process to access accredited vendors and technicians through a mobile based communication tool (USSD and SMS). Households can a query using their phone via USSD code (*860#) and receives a response as an SMS with contacts of the accredited solar PV vendor or technician in the location they have selected. Accreditation of vendors and technicians is based on compliance with a minimum set of requirements to ensure delivery of good quality solar PV products and associated services.

To create nationwide awareness and acceptance of the mobile based tool, the design and development of the USSD SMS tool incorporated pilot testing with a sample of potential users, to ensure that it is simple and practical to use. The tool also incorporates a feedback option which will be used to continuously improve the tool, update or modify the database of accredited vendors and technicians based on compliance as part of monitoring.   

 

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