Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The leaders of solar energy equipment importers and distributors have lauded the new standards amidst protests by the traders over the July 1 deadline.
Uganda National Bureau of Standards, UNBS, has told the business community to ensure that their solar energy products, mainly the home-use equipment, are off the market by July, unless they conform to the newly gazetted standards.
This follows a public outcry on poor quality solar products flooding the market. The standard now provides baseline requirements for quality, durability and truth in advertising to protect consumers of off-grid renewable energy products in general.
Some of the requirements include; truth in advertising, where all advertised features must be clear, true and accurate, and in the English language. For lights, after 100 days, the bulb must give at least 90 per cent of the lighting power it has on manufacture, while a gadget must not break when dropped on a concrete surface from one metre above.
The standard also requires that all components be able to fit in other gadgets. For example, plugs must fit into sockets of the same gadget type. The standard was developed following years of lobbying, according to the Uganda Solar Energy Association, USEA, to respond to the complaints by customers over the quality of the products.
However, as UNBS launched sensitization campaigns to prepare the business community for the impending enforcement of the standards, several traders said that the July 1 deadline, is too soon for them to have cleared their stock.
But the Deputy Executive Director Patricia Bageine Ejalu says they have been engaging the business community since late last year, adding that it is a usual response whenever a notice of enforcement is announced.
Kampala City Traders Association, KACITA, Chairman Everest Kayondo welcomes the development, saying the standards were long overdue. He advises the traders who are worried about their products or any other issue regarding the move by UNBS, to approach the Bureau or the Trade Minister because there is still some room for amendments.
Other traders asked for possible compensation for goods that may be taken off the market if they were imported and put on sale before the standard was gazetted. UNBS Manager Standards Development, Andrew Othieno says that it is possible that the government will come in to mitigate the losses where possible.
He cites an example where a product is labelled a certain watt capacity, which could be found to be of fewer watts. In such a case, the trader can be told to re-label the package with the correct specifications.
Emmy Kimbowa, the Chairman of the solar dealer’s association, USEA, says the lack of the standards was affecting the business and that introducing and enforcing the standards will increase customer confidence and expand the market.
The move is part of the efforts to ensure that the country’s 60 per cent access to modern energy is attained by 2040, with at least 30 per cent of this being off-grid solutions especially solar. However, the Rural Electrification Agency, REA says it would be difficult for this to happen especially if the rural communities, for which the small solar energy products are targeted, are suffering from poor quality services.
Kayondo calls for more resources for UNBS because currently, the agency cannot effectively monitor and prevent the influx of substandard products, according to him.