With only about 13% of people with access to the electricity grid, Papua New Guinea (PNG), is one of the most challenging and underserved energy markets in the world. PNG has a population of more than eight million people, who speak more than 800 languages, divided into more than 10,000 ethnic clans living across 600 islands. Over 80 percent of people live in rural areas, yet with only 18 people per square kilometer, PNG is one of the least densely populated countries in the world.

The Lighting Papua New Guinea program has brought solar energy to one-fifth of the country’s population. © Silent O/Shutterstock

Lighting PNG has created a market for and promoted the use of modern, off grid lighting products. The program has helped global solar manufacturers enter the local market by providing business connections and market intelligence as well as education for consumers and retailers on the value of using quality verified solar products.

Our team has advised five global manufacturers and four local distributors on how to grow the off-grid solar market in a sustainable way by promoting quality verified products and tapping into the power of the private sector. Through its work, Lighting PNG has helped unlock the off-grid solar market and created a platform for global manufacturers to partner with local distributors to take the products to rural communities.

Since 2014, the Lighting PNG program has helped more than 1.8 million people, representing 22 percent of the country’s population, to gain access to phone charging and solar lighting for the first time. That’s a dramatic difference compared to when the program started when only two percent of the population had access to off-grid solar products. Back then, people were reliant on firewood and kerosene, which is expensive, and hazardous to both individual health and the environment. By substituting kerosene lamps with solar power, Lighting PNG is significantly reducing PNG’s greenhouse gas emissions.

With 300 days of sunshine in many parts of the country, Lighting PNG has been able to quickly catalyze the market for off-grid solar. The program is supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand under the PNG Partnership, through which Australia, New Zealand and IFC are working together to stimulate private sector investment and reduce poverty in PNG.

Quality Assurance

Under the program, product testing and quality verification for manufacturing associates who were interested in joining the program. This quality assurance makes it easier for distributors and consumers to differentiate between poor-quality and high-quality verified products. The quality assurance framework and test methods have been institutionalized through, and are now based on, IEC/TS 62257-9-5, a technical specification published by the International Electrotechnical Commission. Lighting Global maintains a set of minimum quality standards, which off-grid lighting products must meet in order to access program services.

Lighting PNG is now working with the government of Papua New Guinea to regulate solar products entering the market by submitting them to a quality certification process.

Market Intelligence

The Lighting PNG program involved in-depth research into market fundamentals with insights shared with local distribution associates in order to support their decision-making.

Business Development

Lighting PNG made direct connections between global quality-verified manufacturing associates and local distribution associates. The aim was to lower market entry costs for manufacturers and assist distributors in developing a viable off-grid lighting sector.

Consumer Awareness

Lighting PNG worked with associates to launch targeted consumer awareness campaigns in order to inform potential consumers in PNG about the opportunities of modern off-grid lighting and assisted them in making informed decisions about purchasing quality verified solar products. A solar roadshow, Gutpla Solar, Gutpla Life, was started in October 2018 as a major consumer awareness campaign.