QA | 2019 Year in Review

Pictured (left to right): Ari Reeves (CLASP) and Arne Jacobson (Schatz Energy Research Center) of the QA program

Happy New Year! Over the past twelve months, the quality assurance team worked hard to strengthen the QA program to deliver greater value to the off-grid solar sector. The demand for our services remains strong. In 2019 alone, we signed nearly 100 agreements with suppliers and issued approximately the same number of verification letters. We improved the design of the program, released several new resources, and expanded into new product areas.

As we turn our attention to 2020, we would like to reflect on some major trends and accomplishments of the last year, many of which would not be possible without valuable input and contributions from our partners. We thank you for your support and look forward to another exciting and productive new year!

In 2019, we made important improvements to the quality verification (QV) program for pico-solar products and SHS kits.

  • We began evaluating products tested according to IEC/TS 62257-9-5:2018 (Edition 4). With the adoption of these test methods, a daily energy service value (measured in Wh/day) is calculated for every fully tested product. This metric is important to suppliers and buyers alike and is used to determine eligibility and incentive amounts under the Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP) and other programs.
  • In February, we changed how we handle co-branded products to make it easier to find them on the products page and to hold all brand owners accountable for ensuring their products meet the Quality Standards.
  • In October, we introduced new pricing for QV services to provide greater transparency and increase fairness for all product suppliers.

Demand for QV services remains strong.

  • In the last 12 months, we signed nearly 100 agreements with suppliers and issued approximately the same number of verification letters.
  • Unfortunately, a number of companies have experienced delays in testing over the past year. We have been working closely with laboratories to address challenges that have contributed to the delays, with a goal of consistently bringing the total time for testing back in line with expectations. Please let us know if you continue to experience delays or have other issues with testing your products.

We released several new resources to help companies design and market quality off-grid solar products.

  • Our Guide to Complying with Consumer-Facing Information Requirements is intended for marketing and communications professionals who may have limited familiarity with the quality standards. The guide helps companies design product packaging, warranty cards, and other promotional materials to meet the Lighting Global Quality Standards.
  • Three technical notes on USB charging (Issue 29) and lithium-ion batteries (Issue 30 and Issue 31) cover topics of great importance to off-grid solar product designers today.
  • Equip Data went live in June and now contains independent performance and quality data for more than 300 off-grid-appropriate fans, televisions, refrigerators, and solar water pumps. The platform helps companies find appliances that will meet their customers’ needs.
  • In 2019, we developed a comprehensive set of Global LEAP test methods that are freely available for public inspection and use.
  • Efficiency for Access released the 2019 State of the Off-Grid Appliance Market Report, which estimated the market opportunity across televisions, fans, and refrigerators at USD 12.6 billion globally in 2018, with the potential to double to USD 25.3 billion by 2030.

There were a few notable developments related to national standards for off-grid solar products.

  • The QA Team led the effort to transition the Lighting Global Quality Standards for pico-solar products and SHS kits to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The IEC is expected to approve the adoption of these standards in early 2020, with publication to follow a few months later.
  • The Standards Organization of Nigeria and others have already signaled their intentions to adopt these standards once they are adopted at the international level.
  • China and Pakistan adopted the IEC test methods for standalone solar products in 2019, which lays the groundwork for these countries to adopt quality standards in the future. China adopted the IEC test methods (TS 62257-9-5) in Mandarin. This is an important milestone for the IEC and for China, as it marks the first time that any IEC standard or technical specification was directly published in Chinese.
  • The QA team has also noted interest among some governments in taking measures to protect consumers of off-grid appliances. In response to this interest, Efficiency for Access released a policy brief, which explores how test methods, quality standards, and labeling can be used to promote high-performing off-grid appliances. This is sure to be an active topic of discussion in the coming months and years.

We laid the foundation for exciting new developments in 2020. 

  • The QA team reached out to several stakeholders to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the program. In 2020, we plan to grow the program so that it can better respond to the sector’s evolving needs.
  • We will share this new vision for an expanded QA program at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum & Expo in Nairobi. We hope that you will attend our side event on February 20th and visit us at booth 61. We look forward to seeing you there!