2 June 2018

Ethiopia: New Standard Arise to Regulate Solar Panels

It will become obligatory after it is approved by the National Standardisation Council

The government has drafted a new national standard for the small-scale solar home system (SHS) with the primary aim of regulating the quality of imported items.

The standard, which was drafted with a joint effort by the Ministry of Water, Irrigation & Electricity, Ethiopia Standards Agency and Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, was finalised two weeks ago. It was then tabled for discussion to receive comments from stakeholders in a seminar that was held in Adama, 100Km South of the capital.

The Initiation to drafting the standard came from the MoWIE that requested the Standard Agency for the preparation of the standard in November 2016. The technical committee of the Agency, formed to formulate such specification drafted the standard in collaboration with stakeholders including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC). The two global development partners assisted the process with finance and technical aids. Global Environment Facility of the UNDP has pledged 15,000 dollars for the drafting process that took a year.

It will be used for SHSs, a stand-alone photovoltaic system supplying power for lighting and appliances to remote off-grid households, with power capacity ranging from 16wp to 350wp. The standard specifies requirements on the kits such as safety durability and their compatibility while utilisation. The solar panels that can be imported to the country should have a two-year guarantee for the solar system and a year guarantee for the control box, cables, lights and the battery.

"We believe the standard will increase the use of renewable energy in the country and encourage the private sector to involve in the business," said Frehiwot Kebede (PhD), state minister of MoWIE. "Renewable energy is a priority for us accompanied by the production of clean energy sources and increasing access to power."

The average electricity coverage in the nation is only 55pc, where eight percent and 93pc of rural and urban households have access to electricity, respectivly.

"The standard could help the country in reaching a community which is in an off-grid area," says Zewge Worku, acting director with energy efficiency and conservation at the Ethiopian Energy Authority.

With the principal aim of having an alternative source of energy and expanding the electricity coverage of the country, the government has given priority to renewable energy sources. The target for the duration of the second edition of the Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP II) is to import 3.5 million solar lanterns and half a million SHS.

The standard seeks to implement a more private sector-driven and a market-based approach, according to Kidanua Abera, Energy & Low Carbon Program Analyst with UNDP, Ethiopia.

Most of the solar technologies used in Ethiopia are coming from Asian countries like India and China. A report by the World Bank Group magnifies that about 60pc of the solar technology products in Ethiopia's market are poor quality or sub-standard products.

Dereje Walelgn, president of Solar Energy Development Association Ethiopia, which has 20 active members, believes that this can ensure quality, as the market has been flooded with sub-standard such materials.

"The current system is like a hit and run. There are meddlers in the system," says Dereje, who is the managing director of Lydetco, one of solar panel importing companies.

Tigabu Atalo, a power and energy consultant with over a decade of experience in the power sector, echoes Dereje's assertion.

"It would also help the country reserve the badly needed foreign currency from being wasted for fewer quality purchases," says Tigabu.

Currently, the Ethiopian Energy Authority is conducting an impact assessment study to make the standard obligatory. The Standard Agency is collecting feedbacks from stakeholder in 60 days and will incorporate them in the draft, according to Yilma Mengistu, director of standards at the Agency.

The standards will become obligatory after it has been approved by the National Standardization Council.

"Hopefully, if the standard is approved, it would help control the lesser quality imports in the informal channels," said Tigabu.

Ethiopia

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