Leading the war against substandard and counterfeit solar products
Throughout her childhood, Anne Wacera Wambugu got light at night from a kerosene lamp. It wasn’t until she was in her fifth year at the University of Nairobi, studying for a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, that her parents’ home in Cherangany, Trans Nzoia County, was connected to the national grid. It is to her childhood experience that she credits her interest in engineering and in renewable energy.
She now works as the Quality Manager of the testing laboratory at Strathmore Energy Research Centre (SERC). Her first contact with SERC was the Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy training for women organised by SERC and a women’s working group (WISEE). The programme, which was funded by the United States Agency for International Development and implemented by Arizona State University, was the launchpad for her career in the solar energy sector.
Quality assurance and standardisation
Through her work on quality assurance and standardisation, Anne is at the forefront of the war against substandard and counterfeit solar products. An influx of substandard solar products in the Kenyan market hampers efforts to increase the penetration of renewable energy. Early product failures are a financial burden on consumers and lead to a loss of trust in brands and standard marks, thus crippling the industry.
“We have gotten used to the idea that having faulty electrical systems is normal. It’s not and we shouldn’t treat it so. Our work at the lab entails assisting the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), as well as the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA), with market check testing of solar products, with the aim of cleaning up the electrotechnical industry,” she says.
Solar testing lab
The Strathmore Solar Testing Laboratory, a department within SERC, tests solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, charge controllers, luminaires and batteries for pico-PV systems. The laboratory was established with the support of GIZ, a German development agency. It fills a gap in quality assurance and market surveillance testing for electrotechnical systems in the Kenyan market.
The lab is currently working towards being ISO 17025 accredited. This will enable it to offer certification in accordance with local, regional and international standards. “Once certified, we will continue contributing to improving the quality of electrical equipment and restoring the credibility and confidence that people have on the diamond mark.”
In addition to her work at SERC, Anne wears multiple hats. She is a member of KEBS Electrotechnical Technical Committees (TC) through the Kenya National Committee for the International Electrotechnical Commission, and TC 92 on Solar and Wind. She is also Kenya’s representative to the African Standardization Electrotechnical Commission (AFSEC) TC on Solar, as well as the acting chair for the AFSEC Young Professionals and Gender Programme.
Furthermore, she is a member of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Systems Committee for Low Voltage Direct Current. In 2018, she was named an IEC Young Professional, representing Kenya in the global programme dedicated to upcoming electrotechnology experts and leaders around the world.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari.
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