energy access solar lamp Lake Victoria Kenya
Lake Victoria, Kenya. Image: Jose Antonio San Millan Cobo, 123RF.com

The results of a new study commissioned by CLASP on consumers’ experiences with off-grid solar products in Kenya shows that consumers are satisfied with product performance.

The growth of the off-grid solar sector into a $1.75 billion industry, delivering energy services to 420 million global users, speaks to the sectors’ immense value. CLASP, which leads the VeraSol quality assurance initiative, commissioned a study to evaluate consumers’ experiences with off-grid solar products in Kenya, a global off-grid market leader. Overall, the consumers surveyed confirmed that off-grid solar products are indeed delivering as expected, with about 70% expressing satisfaction with solar products’ durability, price and aftersales services offered​. 

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“It seems that years of quality assurance and consumer awareness support have had their intended impact and led to Kenya’s consumers being more discerning when purchasing solar products, which could be a significant factor in driving the high levels of user satisfaction,” said Dana Rysankova, Global Lead for Energy Access at the World Bank.

This study was the first of its kind and sought to complement existing data gathered through laboratory testing by focusing on how consumers interact with quality-verified and non-quality verified products.

Team Leader for the UK aid-sponsored Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility, Pauline Githugu said: “This type of consumer survey is important and will continue to be critical for the sector to understand the effectiveness of adopting quality standards by interrogating the type of products that ultimately reach the consumer and the user experience (which supports the need for quality verification of products).

In addition to being a key off-grid market, Kenya is also an early adopter of the IEC quality standards for solar products, making it a suitable example of the value of leveraging government support in implementing national quality assurance measures. EED Advisory conducted the consumer study by visiting and interviewing a nationally representative sample of 3,915 households in early 2021 about their experiences with solar lanterns, lighting kits, home systems and appliances.

The study found that 28% of Kenyan households have access to at least one standalone off-grid solar product, with 21% using it as the primary source of lighting. Rural households were more than twice as likely to have off-grid solar products as were urban households (37% vs 16%), and seven counties (Homa Bay, Kilifi, Kitui, Machakos, Migori, Narok and Siaya) stood out as having a higher prevalence of off-grid solar products compared to the rest of the country.

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The study results highlight a clear link between quality assurance and consumer satisfaction in many but not all aspects. For example, respondents indicated similar satisfaction rates with product durability for quality-verified (77%) versus non-quality verified (72%) solar lighting systems. However, for product breakdowns, a significantly higher proportion of non-quality verified solar lanterns (19%) and solar home systems (31.3%) were reported to have broken down compared to quality-verified ones (9.2% and 8.9%, respectively). For repair cost, there was a stark difference, with non-quality verified lanterns being over three times more expensive to repair than quality-verified lanterns in Kenya.

The study proposes building firm-level verification methods and standards, strengthening partnerships between affiliate brands and last-mile distributors and leveraging brand integrity to predict products’ quality and service to enhance quality assurance.

Read the full Quality in the Off-Grid Solar Market: An Assessment of the Consumer Experience in Kenya report for more information.