Beyond technical standards: Creating an ecosystem for quality and repair in Kenya's off-grid solar sector

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Abstract

Kenya's national electrification plan now promotes the use of off-grid solar home systems as a long-term energy access solution in rural regions of the country, suggesting that these technologies may no longer be viewed as stop-gap solutions for households awaiting the centralized grid. The quality of these off-grid solar systems is governed by technical standards that require specific information is disclosed on labels to communicate quality measures to consumers, but who uses this information? We argue that there are four audiences that “consume” this information: international organizations and actors working to harmonize standards across countries, port-of-entry conformity assessors, agents or electricians and technicians/installers, and end users. Using qualitative data from interviews and focus group discussions, we illustrate that labels alone do not sufficiently educate end users about solar quality. Rather, end users rely on local sales agents, technicians, and electricians for guidance on purchases, repairs, and e-waste, as these actors are better positioned to help end users interpret the technical information required by standards. International programs and Kenyan policies that address solar quality will benefit from rebalancing the resources (capacity and financial) expended on information campaigns and labeling with efforts that support a more sustainable ecosystem of on-the-ground solar services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102101
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

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