As experience with other renewable technologies show, lack of social acceptance and incongruity with cultural values and norms are common barriers during the implementation phase. Therefore, it is important to investigate in users needs and behavior patterns. Additionally, experience show, that laboratory test have to be complemented with fied tests in order to test the solar lanterns under real-life conditions. Due to the fact, that many bad quality products exists, it is important to test selected products in a field test.
GIZ Energising Development has conducted various tests in different countries, such as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, Senegal and Uganda. Approaches of these tests differ, results and outlook are presented within this articles.
The GTZ PicoPV country survey results underpin that an ‘all-size-fits-one’ lamp model does not exist. The lamp models were rated differently by users across different continents, and they were liked and disliked for different reasons. However, there are some aspects that turned out to be important for consumers in all the test countries.
Above all, light quality, including the size of the light cone and light intensity, mattered most to the majority of respondents. Apart from that, in Latin America it was the radio function that made people like certain lanterns, whereas for African consumers the phone charging function was considered more important. Another selling point for lamps in Uganda was visual resemblance of the kerosene lanterns that are conventionally used there. For these reasons, people felt that the solar lamp could directly replace the traditional model and therefore perceived it as particularly useful and relevant.
Another result that emerged from the research was that consumers are highly suspicious of poor quality products that have only a short lifetime. Even among poor households there is a willingness to pay for quality, and there is evidence that the target consumer groups do think ahead and are not interested in products that may be relatively cheap but have to be replaced after a short time. There is also concern among all potential retailers that maintenance and repair services may be a major hurdle towards the development of PicoPV markets in rural areas, where there is no local expertise on these new kinds of products.
The field survey also revealed certain reservations by different consumer groups against some visual design features that will have to be taken into account for any successful PicoPV marketing strategy. For example, people had very particular positive or negative associations with certain colors or forms which might have an impact on their purchasing decision even though they said that these product features were not decisive factors. One lantern, for example, reminded Ugandan women of a camera, which limited its attractiveness, while in Nicaragua people particularly liked the handy format of the lamp.
In Mozambique, one of the lamp models was described as “masculine” so that women would hesitate to use it. In Uganda, white is associated with religious ceremonies like funerals and therefore not regarded an appropriate color for a lamp.
In general, it can be noted that overall the tested PicoPV lamps proved robust and performed well during the field trial. Here again, an interesting observation is that the performance of the same lamp models was not the same across all countries due to the specific local conditions.
The willingness to pay for PicoPV products in general, and for certain lamp models in particular, differed enormously between the countries. African users indicated a higher willingness to pay than users in Bolivia and Nicaragua (again, leaving much room for future validation of applied methods and ways to account for potential behavioural differences between survey countries). The figures obtained through Dutch auctions indicate a WTP of 50-90 USD for lamps of the highest value class from a consumers’ perspective. Lanterns falling into a medium value category were bought at 25- 50 USD. The remaining lanterns were sold for 5-25 USD. In spite of these high willingness to pay indications, a central finding from all the country surveys was that many households at the bottom of the income pyramid, which are in fact the main target population for PicoPV lamps, often lack the required cash availability. Even though the purchase of a lamp would pay off within a few months due to savings on running costs of conventional lighting solutions, consumers, notably in rural areas, mostly do not have the cash available to pay the upfront investment and have no access to financial services which could support by-passing this problem. This is a major a hurdle for the large-scale distribution of PicoPV lamps in LDCs. This is particularly true for the more expensive PicoPV lamp models, which range between 80 and 150 US$ per piece.
A consumer credit scheme piloted in Uganda suggests that offering the possibility of payment in rates enhances affordability of the lamps by rural households tremendously. The willingness to pay (WTP) figures collected in the GTZ PicoPV field survey by far exceed the respective figures resulting from household surveys under the Lighting Africa Market Research programme. This high deviation may be partly due to the very different research approach used by Lighting Africa in this part of the survey, where households were asked to indicate their WTP statements for different lamp types without having had a chance to test-use them.
As part of the baseline analysis of the GTZ field surveys, households were asked to specify their monthly expenditures for conventional lighting devices, whereas the ex-pot survey
assessed to which degree the PicoPV lamps had replaced the use of these traditional lighting devices. The finding across countries was that PicoPV lamps have a true potential to substitute conventional lighting sources to a large degree. The associated substantial savings (and poverty alleviation)potential through the use of PicoPV lamps is underpinned
by both the GTZ field survey data on lighting costs and the
respective Lighting Africa Market Research results from the
large-scale household survey in part II of the research project
(n=1000 for each country)
Worldbank's Lighting Africa has accomplished as well a field test with PicoPV systems. A summary of their report is given in this article.