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New UNBS mandatory solar standards to strain dealers

UNBS is finalizing the development of new mandatory solar standards that provide baseline requirements for quality, durability and truth in advertising to protect consumers of off-grid renewable energy products

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Dealers of solar energy products have expressed fear that the new mandatory solar standards for solar products could chase them out of business.

Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) is finalizing the development of the new mandatory solar standards that provide baseline requirements for quality, durability and truth in advertising to protect consumers of off-grid renewable energy products in general.

According to Andrew Othieno, UNBS standards development manager, the standards are being designed under the Solar Home System (SHS) and the solar products category that covers the plug and play products which include controllers, radios, cables, panels, batteries, torches, lamps, chargers, and other solar gadgets under 350 watts.

These mandatory solar standards will come into implementation in July this year.

The traders who attended the regional awareness campaign organized by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Rural Electrification Agency (REA), and Uganda Solar Energy Association (USEA), targeting solar energy consumers and dealers from the greater Ankole region expressed fear of making loses when standards get implemented.

Rodgers Ashaba, sales manager for Solar Now Uganda says the delay for government to check on the standards of the solar products is not the dealers’ fault, arguing that confiscating their products will cost them, so he now wants the government to buy off the products already on the market that are not meeting the standards.

James Mugume, a solar dealer says with the mandatory standards leave traders at high risk of losing even the genuine products and being arrested because consumers have resorted to buying single components rather than full solar components.

Thus he says, complaints will be raised at the expense of the traders.

He wonders how the agency will fight the fake solar products on the market when even they have failed to fight other fake products.

Judith Kyarisiima, a consumer welcomed the initiative saying it was overdue and people have lost lots of money to fake solar products.

Andrew Othieno says the standards that were gazetted in the newspapers by the minister of trade and cooperatives involve imports inspections and market surveillance activities to ensure that all poor quality solar products are taken off the market.

The UNBS 2020 survey report shows that 70% of the solar energy products marketed in Uganda do not conform to the quality standards recognized by the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC) and Lighting Global Standards.

He says the standards will majorly focus on consumer protection.

The Manager Off-Grid Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Benon Bena, says that the quality of solar systems on the Ugandan market is very poor and this is costing the end-user in terms of value for money.

The mandatory solar standards follow the acquisition of electrical testing laboratory equipment by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) in 2019 and this conducts tests on solar Photovoltaic (PV) equipment.

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