Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) has bemoaned the tendency by some traders of selling fake renewable energy products at the price of genuine ones.
For quite some time now, and due to the prolonged power outages, fake renewable energy products that are not durable have flooded the market.
Apart from the products being fake and not conforming to set standards, most installers do substandard work because they do not have the required expertise, putting lives of consumers at risk.
The latest example is an installer at a certain secondary school in Dowa District who mixed batteries of different capacities and from various suppliers.
According to Mera findings, government projects have also been hit by fake products.
Speaking in Mzuzu on Friday at a stakeholders’ awareness meeting on monitoring and enforcement of quality of renewable energy products and installation, Mera director of electricity and renewable energy Welton Saiwa said the energy regulator is sensitising stakeholders first to the standards before meting out penalties.
“People have to know the standards first before we start impounding the fake products. We hope that by now they are aware. Thereafter, we will take action,” he said.
According to Saiwa, Mera is regulating the market and working with Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) in the country’s borders to monitor all import of renewable energy products.
“We have been monitoring, but with shortfalls. We need various fronts to monitor this,” he said.
However, MBS is facing challenges with renewable energy technologies.
In his presentation, MBS deputy director of testing services Stephen Chalimba noted that the standards body has shortage of personnel to perform the duties as it only has one electrical engineer and two technicians in its instrumentation unit.
He asked for development of standards for products that are currently not covered.
“MBS is not monitoring everything that enters the system. We are only monitoring about four to five batteries,” said Chalimba.
As one way of testing the products in the laboratory, Mera is working with the Training and Testing Centre for Renewable Energy Technologies at Mzuzu University (Mzuni).
In an interview, a renewable energy specialist Collen Zalengera said according to a study done by Mzuni by sampling some renewable energy products from the Mzuzu Market, they confirmed the presence of substandard products which do not comply with the standards.
“The first danger with this is that consumers are treated unfairly by buying substandard products with given prices at par with standard products which do not last,” he said.
Zalengera said the products are also risking the lives of consumers due to faulty connections.
“For example, one of the solar panel boxes had a clearly marked positive and negative label, but when we opened, we found all negatives. If these cables are connected by an amateur without expertise, they can be wrong connections,” he explained.