From fake solar to full service: An empirical analysis of the solar home systems market in Uganda

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Abstract

Solar technologies promise to provide clean energy to the poorest populations. Motivated by observations of low-quality products in the solar home system market, this study analyzes the role of product quality in the transition to cleaner energy technologies in developing countries. Our systematic empirical analysis of the Ugandan solar home system market reveals several market segments. Plug-and-play and full-service solar home systems offer relatively high quality, whereas component-based mix-and-match systems offer a low-quality, low cost alternative. In addition, we observed a ‘no quality’ product segment with junk and fake products. Our analysis shows that neither high-quality nor low-quality solar products offer a win-win situation if we are to achieve “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” (SDG 7). Rather they are complementary as low-quality products may enhance a swift and inclusive transition, whereas high-quality products offer more reliable and higher quality energy access. This observation calls for reconsideration of the current development approaches that focus only high-quality products to achieve the SDG 7 and seeks to protect markets from low-quality products. More interaction between the different market segments is key to realize the promise of solar home systems for low income populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-111
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Volume58
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • solar home systems
  • business models
  • quality
  • energy transition
  • Base of the Pyramid
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • energy access

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