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Power outages blamed for increased fake solar products

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By Steve Umidha

Growing number of fake solar products linked to rampant power outages are on sale across the country, the public is being warned.

Power blackouts have been on the rise in the last few weeks following heavy rains being witnessed across the country. Kenyans woke up to a nationwide power outage on Saturday with the utility distributor Kenya Power attributing the situation to a system disturbance on its transmission network.

Unscrupulous merchants are now said to be taking advantage of the situation at a time when many Kenyans are staying away from their work stations and working from home because of the pandemic.

Solar solutions firm d.Light Solar Tuesday said using these products pose serious repercussions and has cautioned the public against unscrupulous merchants selling counterfeit solar products during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Alex Olum, the Managing Director (Kenya), said there was an increased reports of counterfeit products as Kenyans seek alternative ways of sustaining their energy needs amid the power blackouts that are often associated with the long rains.

“We know about the floods and power outages and these dealers have taken advantage of the situation,” he said.

Counterfeits are likely to undermine the uptake of solar products since the devices break-down quickly thus damaging consumers’ confidence in solar technology.

It is estimated that about 25,000 to 30,000 solar PV products are traded yearly in the Kenyan market and that at least every household has owned at least one solar PV product – with both the government and private sector are making great strides towards energy access through increased adoption of solar PV.

Counterfeit solar inverters, bulbs and batteries have been flooding the local market even before the pandemic hit, hurting sales of genuine products while denying buyers value for their money, solar equipment dealers have warned.

“We have gotten used to the idea that having faulty electrical systems is normal. It’s not and we shouldn’t treat it so,” says Anne Wacera, who works as a Quality Manager, testing laboratory at Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC).

According to the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (Gogla), the proliferation of fake products that sell at half the prices of genuine products has made it difficult for dealers to sell their products – threatening to drive honest traders out of business.

Available figures by Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA), an estimated one in every five products in the local market is bogus, with up to 4 million of the country’s 49.7 million population using fake goods that pose a “serious threat”

The vice is widely blamed on outdated regulation that industry players have relied on for the past 7 years and is due to expire in two years.

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) is in the process of reviewing regulations on solar systems and industry in a move meant to improve quality, performance and existing malpractice with the country currently operating on regulations that allow manufacture, importation, distribution, promotion, sale, design or installation through licensed industry players.

The review will consider encompassing regulation of importation and sale of plug-and-play devices, off the shelf ready-made kits that do not require installation and is currently not regulated.

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