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Solar sector in huge growth as buyers stream in

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The attraction of solar lanterns, for instance, is driven by the fact that they offer significant savings in the long term for home lighting solutions compared to the use of lamps running on kerosene. Photo/FILE

The attraction of solar lanterns, for instance, is driven by the fact that they offer significant savings in the long term for home lighting solutions compared to the use of lamps running on kerosene. Photo/FILE 

By VICTOR JUMA

Posted  Tuesday, December 29   2009 at  00:00
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Despite the high demand for solar products, a number of challenges could slow down uptake of the products.

“Lack of trust is the major threat to the industry,” said John Mwenda, sales and marketing manager at Deutrex Trading, a firm that deals in solar lanterns and mobile chargers.

As the sector rises, standardisation issues are still a challenge; with low-quality imports making their entry into the market.

Most of the retailers are offering guarantees of up to three years for the products.

However, some of the products do not last as long and their performance is disappointing to buyers.

Some solar lanterns, for instance, end up issuing dim lights.

Those that use lead and acid batteries get drained quickly compared to rechargeable dry cells.

“There are no standards for solar lanterns based on objective criteria such as the amount of light output and the durability of the lamps. Many substandard and fake lanterns in the market dissuade users and fuel the notion that ‘solar does not work’,” Amadi said.

Mr Mwangi said that sub-standard solar products have slowed down confidence in the market.

IFC, in a newspaper advertisement, last week invited players in the solar products industry for a meeting meant to boost the development of the green business.

The IFC, in conjunction with the World Bank, is running a project called Lighting Africa “that seeks to support the global lighting industry in developing affordable, clean, and efficient modern lighting and energy solutions for millions of Sub-Saharan Africans who currently live without access to the electricity grid.”

With a budget of about Sh912 million, the project intends to assist the sector by sharing market information, developing quality assurance, business linkages, and consumer awareness.

Low profile

The sector has kept a low profile, a fact that has slowed down consumer awareness.

Analysts say that innovative solar products are likely to fill the medium term gap in energy needs as the country struggles to rope in more homes and businesses to the national grid.

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