Lake Victoria, Kenya. Image: Jose Antonio San Millan Cobo, 123RF.com
The results of a new study commissioned by CLASP on consumer experiences with off-grid solar products in Kenya show that consumers are satisfied with the product’s performance.
The growth of the off-grid solar sector into a $ 1.75 billion industry providing energy services to 420 million users worldwide speaks for the immense value of the sectors. CLASP, which leads the VeraSol quality assurance initiative, commissioned a study to assess consumer experiences with off-grid solar products in Kenya, a global off-grid leader. Overall, the surveyed consumers confirmed that off-grid solar products actually deliver as expected, with around 70% expressing their satisfaction with the durability, the price and the after-sales service offered by the solar products.
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“It seems that years of quality assurance and consumer awareness support have had their intended effects and have resulted in Kenya’s consumers being more demanding when it comes to purchasing solar products, which could be a major contributor to the high level of user satisfaction,” said Dana Rysankova, Global Lead for Energy Access at the World Bank.
This study was the first of its kind and was designed to complement existing data from laboratory tests by focusing on how consumers interact with quality-checked and non-quality-checked products.
UK aid agency Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility team leader Pauline Githugu said: “This type of consumer survey is important and will continue to be crucial for the sector to understand the effectiveness of introducing quality standards by asking about the nature of products.” which ultimately reach the consumer and user experience (which supports the need for product quality inspection).
In addition to being a major off-grid market, Kenya is an early adopter of IEC quality standards for solar products, making it a suitable example of the value of government support in implementing national quality assurance measures. EED Advisory carried out the consumer study by visiting and questioning a nationwide representative sample of 3,915 households about their experiences with solar lanterns, lighting sets, home systems and household appliances.
The study found that 28% of Kenyan households have access to at least one standalone off-grid solar product, with 21% using this as their primary source of lighting. Rural households had off-grid solar products more than twice as often as urban households (37% versus 16%), and seven rural districts (Homa Bay, Kilifi, Kitui, Machakos, Migori, Narok and Siaya) stood out as providers of a higher prevalence of off-grid solar products compared to the rest of the country.
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The study results show a clear connection between quality assurance and consumer satisfaction in many, but not all, aspects. For example, respondents indicated similar satisfaction rates with product shelf life for quality-tested (77%) compared to non-quality-tested (72%) solar lighting systems. In the case of product failures, however, a significantly higher proportion of non-quality-tested solar lanterns (19%) and solar home systems (31.3%) were reported as failed compared to quality-tested (9.2% and 8.9%). . There was a big difference in repair costs, as non-quality-checked lanterns in Kenya were more than three times more expensive to repair than quality-checked lanterns.
The study suggests building verification methods and standards at the company level, strengthening last mile partnerships between affiliated brands and retailers, and leveraging brand integrity to predict the quality and service of products and improve quality assurance.
Read the full report, Quality in the Off-Grid Solar Market: An Assessment of the Consumer Experience in Kenya for more information.