SNV was invited to speak at the Energy Access Investment Forum organised by the Association for Rural Electrification (ARE) in Lisbon from 22-23 March.
At the panel discussion on Technical Assistance for Rural Electrification, Edu Willemse, SNV’s Market Development Manager for Energy, highlighted some practical lessons learned from the many solar and mini-grid projects SNV in implementing in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Edu stressed the importance of quality assurance – obtained by only working with tested and accredited products – as well as the importance of providing regular quality control. “Working with quality products builds consumer trust”, he stated.
By referring to the solar home system project in Cambodia, he explained that using a variety of awareness raising activities to trigger demand (ie. commercials, solar road shows etc) is proven to pay off.
He also mentioned the Pico-solar project in Kenya funded by the multi-donor Energising Development (EnDev) program, in which a network of over 200 last-mile distributors is supported with technical assistance. This has resulted in the sales of 34,000 solar lanterns and solar home systems in 2016 alone. The project shows that good results can be reached by providing targeted technical assistance like training and marketing skills to last-mile entrepreneurs.
Panel member, Michael Köberlein, who represented the EnDev program, stressed the importance of country-specific and tailor-made capacity building in triggering demand. Furthermore, understanding of cultural aspects and user behaviour have to be taken into account. To ensure market development, enhancing the skills and capacities of market players and boosting awareness amongst consumers are paramount.
The issue of quality assurance was picked up by panel member, Francoise Rauser, manager at IEC, a well-known organisation in charge of setting quality standards for technical equipment. She confirmed the importance of quality products and gave the example of solar pre-paid meters which have been tested by IEC.
Other panellists included representatives from energy multinational Schneider Electric and from the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS). The lively discussion was moderated by Pablo Astorga, manager at energy multinational ABB. Some 250 participants, most of whom from the private sector, joined the discussion.