CLASP Provides Technical Support on Off-Grid Solar Quality Assurance Across Sub-Saharan Africa Under VeraSol

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, a quality assurance program managed by CLASP, 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, non-affiliated solar products.

For over four years, CLASP has played a key role in promoting good-quality off-grid solar products. From 2016 to 2020, CLASP implemented the Lighting Global Quality Assurance Program for the World Bank Group, in partnership with Schatz Energy Research Center. The program works with product manufacturers and suppliers to encourage the production, distribution, and sale of quality pico-PV products and solar home system kits around the world.

Our data show demand for quality verification services is growing. Lighting Global Quality Assurance reported an over 50% increase in the number of testing agreements signed since 2017. To better serve the market, CLASP, through VeraSol, is working closely with our partners to improve expand quality assurance services and testing capacity across sub-Saharan Africa.

VeraSol and the Evolution of Quality Assurance

CLASP’s CEO Christine Egan announces the launch of VeraSol at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum & Expo

To further support growing quality assurance efforts across sub-Saharan Africa, CLASP announced the launch of VeraSol at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo in Nairobi. An evolution of Lighting Global Quality Assurance, VeraSol supports high-performing, durable off-grid solar products that expand access to modern energy services. Building on the strong foundation laid by the World Bank Group, VeraSol expands its quality assurance framework to encompass off-grid appliances and productive use equipment.

CLASP Joins the Africa Clean Energy Program Under VeraSol

The UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) 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 Financial 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 four years of experience in off-grid solar quality assurance under VeraSol, CLASP has joined the program as quality assurance (QA) managers to support the IFC and program managers Coffey International Development on the implementation of quality assurance activities under the ACE-TAF 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.

CLASP’s Francis Ndonga meets with Abdiwahid Ibrahim Ahmed, Director General of Ministry of Energy & Water Resources on Somalia’s quality assurance framework at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum & Expo.

Over the past few months, the VeraSol team traveled around the continent to participate in ACE country manager meetings with standards bodies and government representatives and to make presentations on the role of quality assurance in market development. Quality assurance encompasses the entire process of creating and 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 standards development and implementation of quality assurance policies. The team also attended the ACE-TAF Country Manager Meeting in Zambia and met with standards bodies and government officials in Ethiopia and Malawi.

These meetings provided insight into the current state of those countries’ off-grid solar market regulatory frameworks and facilitated visits to potential testing laboratories. Following the visits, CLASP is developing profiles to understand regulatory frameworks and testing capacity of each country. Five countries will be selected to host laboratories to test solar products and equipment.

Over the next several months, the VeraSol team will draft a training manual for the ACE country managers to provide a deeper perspective on quality assurance and develop a QA framework for the country managers to follow when addressing government representatives. Finally, the team will create a roadmap for each participating country to follow as quality assurance policies are created and implemented.


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