Four out of 10 solar systems substandard

Wednesday June 27 2018

A number of Ugandans have been seeking solar

A number of Ugandans have been seeking solar energy solutions due to unreliable power supply off the national grid. PHOTO BY ERONIE KAMUKAMA  

By Eronie Kamukama

Kampala. As the number of solar energy installations grow, the Uganda Solar Energy Association (USEA), which is mandated with verifying the quality of solar equipment on the market has warned Ugandans against falling victim to the increasing number of fake products on the market.
USEA is mandated by Uganda National Bureau of Standards to curb the entry of fake or substandard solar products on the market.
Speaking in Kampala during the signing of Shs1.9b grant, Mr Emmy Kimbowa, the USEA chairman, said: “For every 10 solar energy solutions, you will find about three or four that do not meet required.”
The money, which was extended by Power Africa Uganda Electricity Supply Accelerator, seeks to promote access to off grid solar energy.

According to USEA, the solar energy sector accounts for 7 per cent, which means that between five and six households out of 10 get power supply off grid network.
“Quality costs money so you find that a good solar system will cost much more. If government could remove some taxes that cost would come down to Shs1.5m for a good solar system for a household with about six internal lights, four security lights, phone charging, radio and television. As of now, it is about Shs2.5m,” Mr Kimbowa said.

Mr Brooke Whitaker, the Power Africa Uganda Accelerator, acting chief of party, said that although financial institutions are interested in supporting access to clean energy, they are yet to understand the unique risks (quality of the unit).
“When they [financial institutions] are evaluating a solar energy distributor, they do not understand all the aspects of their business model,” he said, emphasizing that this presents a serious challenge to accessing financing for such projects.

USEA has in the past made appeals for solar systems to be verified at the point of origin before shipments to markets but efforts have been in vain.
“It has not worked because those people who do the verification do not have the laboratories to tell whether it is the right solar panel, bulb or battery,” Mr Kimbowa said.
USEA is now waiting for UNBS’ new test laboratory to weed out the poor quality solar units.

Be mindful about lifespan: A genuine solar solution according to USEA, should have a lifespan of at least 15 years.
Every end-user should ask about the life cycle of the battery and this helps you to determine how long a battery will last.
The battery should at least serve the customer for two years and when you amortise the cost of the battery over the two years, they should be able to get value for money.