PicoPV System Market Assessment in Ethiopia

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This article presents the results from a report from market assessment under taken for the GIZ ECO EnDev Programme. These analysis examine performance indicators, market shares, changes since the baseline, and incremental cost differences before and after the established retailers were handed over by the Rural Energy Foundation/Solar Now to GIZ ECO.

It was agreed that a questionnaire-based qualitative market survey in the target areas and retailers could only be carried out after the target region and area had been identified.

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Abbreviations and Acronyms

  • GO - Governmental organizations
  • MFI - Micro finance Institution
  • MoU - Memorandum of Understanding
  • NGO - Non Governmental Organizations
  • PPS - Pico PV Systems
  • PV - Photovoltaic
  • REF - Rural Electrification Fund
  • REMD - Renewable Energy Market development
  • RREC - Rural Renewable Energy Consultancy Plc
  • SHS - Solar Home Systems
  • SL - Solar Lanterns

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Programme Background

From 2008 to 2011 the Ethiopian company Rural Renewable Energy Consultancy PLC (RREC) executed the Solar Now programme for the Dutch Rural Energy Foundation (REF) in Ethiopia. The programme aimed to simulate socio-economic development by providing rural off-grid households access to modern energy sources, especially solar PV systems. This was done by developing markets and setting up and supporting 40 local retailers to provide quality, affordable renewable energy products and training in rural off grid areas.

Since April 1, 2011 REF discontinued its operations in Ethiopia and hence terminated the partnership with RREC.

Following this, REF and GIZ-ECO agreed and signed an MOU to hand over all information and documents for GIZ-ECO to continue supporting interested solar retailers. In return, GIZ-ECO is attempting to provide resources for a fixed period to further the development of solar retailers’ networks.

As of May 15 2011, GIZ ECO started supporting the previous Solar Now/REF retailers’ programme. This was because since the established retailers needed supports to further improve the quality of the product as well as their technical and business knowledge.

The Solar Now programme employed several key strategies and target to address market barriers and help transform the market:

  • 40 retailers have been established
  • 3 newsletters have been distributed to the retailers to disseminate information for rural communities
  • 4 regional training courses and input meetings have been organised and attended by a total of 23 retailers
  • One trade fair organised by 75 participants of the private sector
  • 5 regional radio campaigns have been staged reaching an estimated 40,000,000 people
  • 3 different promotional items (posters, caps polo shirts) have been designed and distributed to 26 retailers

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The market assessment survey was designed and coordinated by the Renewable Energy Market Development Unit team, in consultation with the Planning, monitoring and evaluation Unit.

For the market survey one questionnaire was formulated by previous Renewable Energy Market Development Advisor (Belay) and sent to the regional ECO offices. Tigray and Amhara Regions’ questionnaires were followed by personal interviews and feedback conducted by the REMD advisor at GIZ ECO head office. The other regions followed up by regional REMD advisors and sent back the information and reports through email and telephone conversations.

Sample of 30 retailers’ shops were surveyed for this assessment, representing 75% of the 40 retailers established by Solar Now.

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Baseline Assessment Objectives

The baseline study shall tell us where those Solar now retailers (40 retailers) were in May 2011 and what their sales were and their experience. And also this assessment will provide data and analysis that will assist GIZ ECO Market Development Unit –related decision making and can serve as an indicative study for future engagements

The primary aim of this study is to establish a status baseline against which to evaluate the success rate of the intervention or programme outcomes and achievements. A secondary goal is to have a good quantitative and qualitative understanding of the Ethiopian solar market in order to intervene most appropriately. The third aim is in the process gather information about the end users solar energy practices and market access through the retailer’s experience.

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Specific Objectives

  • Obtain baseline measurements for key programme indicators
  • Develop a clear understanding of the status and needs of targeted retailers
  • Obtain market system information and demand

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Summary of Baseline Assessment Results

Status of the Retailers

  • 80% of the retailers are legally registered electronics shops. The remaining are not registered legally.
  • Only 10% of the total assessed retailers are receiving technical training from NGOs and wholesalers*
  • Access to MFI loans: 99% of retailers from the target group have never received a loan from a micro- finance institution.

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Retailers Market Links with Wholesaler

Almost all retailers have a link with, on average, two wholesalers in Addis. Out of these, 20 % get the products with a mix of credit and cash-based loan, and another 20% get the products only via credit-based loans. The remaining 60% don’t get any credit facility, as their business modality is only cash-based.

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Types of Solar System Sold

The assessment indicates that 46% of the retailers are selling both solar lanterns and Solar Home Systems (SHS) systems. 23% are selling only the solar lanterns. The remaining 31% of the retailers are not selling any of the systems, but they are still interested in obtaining the products, since they have links with wholesalers in Addis Ababa.

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Products Sold, September 2011 – February 2012

The average of Solar Lanterns sold by the retailers during the period was 170 per month. Average total Solar Home Systems (SHS) sold by the retailers during the same period was 18.5 per month.

Other Multi Users Systems, according to the collected data, were sold at 5 per month.

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Sales Documentation

Only 26% of the total retailers have a filing and documentation system of their sales data. Out of these some have only the sales receipts of payments which show how many systems were sold.

The rest doesn’t have any documentation systems as their main sale is not the solar system. Instead, the solar sales are something they do as part of their shop equipment. Sales figures are so small compared to other electronics equipment that they don’t keep documentation for solar systems.

Nevertheless, all of them agreed that if they got filing and documentation assistance they would be happy to record and report their monthly sales.

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Challenges to Success, and Recommendations

Challenge 1 : Consumer Attitudes About Solar Energy

The biggest obstacle to success of the solar market is low levels of awareness about solar systems in communities. This finding emphasizes the need for extensive awareness-raising at community level, and a sustained marketing campaign that successfully reaches households even in the remotest communities.

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Recommendation 1: Marketing and Promotion

The lack of awareness of solar systems in target areas highlights the need for an extensive marketing campaign.

It is essential that marketers educate consumers. Renewable electricity customers need to understand the details of programme specifications as well as the economic benefits.

Renewable energy marketing is defined as the advocacy of providing electricity generated through environmentally friendly and cost effective compared to kerosene lamp or sustainable means.

Marketers must clear misconceptions about solar electricity, such as assuring customers that they will still have power even in the rainy season.

Most effective tool could be to hold mobile product demonstrations together with solar technology demonstration in shops and at mobile and solar-system trade fairs. These will generate enthusiasm for the products. Word of mouth information/word of marketing flows, radio campaign, leafleting, TV advertising will boost awareness at community level.

All the above activities require not only the retailers’ but also the wholesaler, government, MFI and non-government institutions’ collaboration and support.

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Challenge 2: Low Purchasing Power of the Retailer and Availability of Spare Parts

Due to financial limitations the retailers are not getting enough stock from the suppliers in Addis Ababa.

As mentioned in Table2, 60% percent of the retailers get the product from the supplier only in cash-based loans. This doesn’t encourage the retailers to buy in bulk for their shops.

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Recommendation 2: Support from Wholesalers

Retailers have strong personal relationships with the consumers, and deal directly with the people of varied tastes and temperaments. They form the last link in the chain of distribution and give the final selling price of the product. The retailers provide important services and solve the problems of wholesalers on the one hand, and the consumers on the other hand. Therefore,

  • Wholesalers should better inform the retailers about the new available solar products, its uses and changes in their prices. They must also assist the retailers in advertising and selling the products in order to reach the rural parts of Ethiopia.
  • Wholesalers should provide financial assistance to retailers, sell goods on credit to them, and thus help them to operate with smaller working capital.
  • A wholesaler being the warehouse keeper of the market, they must protect the retailers from the risk of loss arising from holding large stock.
  • Wholesalers may sort different grades of products according to quality, and pack the goods into smaller lots for the retailers.
  • Wholesalers should give technical and awareness training to the retailers, in order to maintain the sustainability of the solar market.

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Challenge 3 : Affordability

In most parts of Ethiopia the customers who most demand the solar systems are rural residents who can least afford it. Credit is very limited in rural areas of the country, and customers do not have access to financing mechanisms.

Recommendation 3: Micro-financing

Solar companies must either develop products that are affordable without credit to the customers, or micro-financing schemes that improve customers’ willingness to pay for the product via credit-based loans.[1]

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Further Information

Contact the Author
Name: Rekik Bekele
Email Address: rekikb@gmail.com , rekik.bekele@solarkiosk.eu


This article presents the results from a report from market assessment under taken for the GIZ ECO EnDev Programme.

  1. Solar PV System Baseline Market Assessment in Ethiopia, September 2011- February 2012