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Bringing sanity in renewable energy

The renewable energy sector has of late attracted a lot of interest following persistent power outages experienced in the country.

The sector has seen companies and individuals scrambling for products such as solar equipment and standby generators to keep businesses running in the absence of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) power.

However, the increased demand for the products has also created an opportunity for unscrupulous traders to bring on the market fake or substandard products.

In order to address the challenge, one of the renowned solar systems suppliers, Fortuner, has entered the Malawi market through a partnership with Sheet Metal.

The partnership will see Sheet Metal being the sole distributor of Fortuner products in the country.

Sheet Metal Director, Ameer Hamza Aziz, said the coming of Fortuner on the market will help provide advanced energy solutions.

Established in 1989, with its core business as a leading electrical switch board manufacturer in the country, Sheet Metal observed that its products comply with international standards.

“Since 2016, Malawi has experienced a critical power shortage. We felt there was a gap in the market for quality renewable energy products; hence, we approached Fortuner. Fortuner already had a presence in the country but needed a strong footprint in the market by partnering with a local, well established company with technical knowhow in electrical and electronic field,” he said.

Aziz said Sheet Metal intends to have a workshop for back up service and support in the unlikely event of a product return.

“We have been assured of back to back technical support as far as product guarantee is concerned,” Aziz said.

Fortuner Group Director, Ashish Choudhary, said, apart from provision of the equipment, Fortuner will also be providing training to users and sellers.

He said renewable energy is complex and needs better understanding for users or sellers.

“Most people lack knowledge, especially on how to make full use of the solar equipment. As a result, consumers end up making mistakes when it comes to operating the system,” he said.

Choudhary said the Fortuner brand is one of the most popular in Africa and Europe and it puts emphasis in training.

“Providing high quality products is one of our key elements, but our emphasis is also on training and we make sure that the consumers have a better understanding on how the products operate,” Choudhary said.

Renewable Energy Industries Association of Malawi (Reama) President, Andrew Nkoloma, said the opening up of the renewable energy sector has seen an influx in sub-standard products.

Nkoloma said Fortuner has come on the market at the right time as consumers would be offered reliable and high quality products.

“The market is flooded with fake renewable energy products and this puts the lives of consumers at risk. Apart from that, the play field is not leveled as the fake products are sold at lower prices as compared to high quality products,” he said.

Nkoloma, however, said most Malawians have embraced renewable energy products following the power outages experienced in the country and would opt to move out of the national grid.

He also said there is need for government control to make sure that only genuine and high quality products are sold on the market.

“Companies have to be registered by the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) and, through that, we believe there will be control,” Nkoloma said.

Solar Traders Associ a tion President, Chisambazi Nyirenda, concurred with Nkoloma, saying a policy intervention would help bring sanity in the industry.

He said there’s need to specify that only duly registered businesses be allowed waivers for quality control and discipline to avoid an influx of sub-standard products on the market.

“Mera should register solar businesses and those ones allowed to import the products should enjoy the waivers,” Nyirenda said.

Minister of Energy, Aggrey Massi, said the government is doing all it can to address the influx of sub-standard solar products that have hit the local market.

Masi said the government has set up a number of measures to address the challenge.

He said the government is working through Malawi Bureau of Standards, Mera and Malawi Revenue Authority to make sure sub-standard products are not imported into Malawi.

“Mera signed memoranda of understanding with MBS and MRA to check the products at the borders while Mera also inspects installed systems in the country.

“Mera conducted sensitisation workshops on renewable energy technology standards in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu in January. There are standards in place but it seems most Malawians are not aware of the existence of those standards; hence, the workshops,” he said.

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