Off-grid solar electric power is a promising technology for remote regions in rural Africa where expansion of the electricity grids is prohibitively expensive. Using household data from a target region of an off-grid solar promotion program in the Kénédougou province in Burkina Faso, this paper explores the role of quality-verified branded solar home systems (SHS) versus non-branded ones. We find that the adoption rate of non-branded SHS is considerably higher at 36% compared to 8% for branded SHS. We compare potential quality differences as well as the cost-effectiveness of branded and non-branded solar products. We show that non-branded SHSs offer a similar service level as branded solar, that they do not fall behind in terms of consumer satisfaction and durability, and that non-branded products are more cost-effective. These findings suggest that promotion programs and branded solar products do not seem to be necessary in Burkina Faso and might also not be needed to establish sustainable off-grid solar markets elsewhere provided that non-branded products are available. The challenge however is to reach the very poor who are unable to bring up investment costs for any electricity.

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Keywords Branded products, Cost-effectiveness, Energy access, Energy poverty, Rural Africa, Technology adoption
JEL Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis (jel D12), Market Structure and Pricing: General (jel D40), Agriculture; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Other Primary Products (jel O13), Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes (jel O33), Demand and Supply (jel Q41)
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Journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews
Bensch, G, Grimm, M, Huppertz, M, Langbein, J. (Jörg), & Peters, J. (2017). Are promotion programs needed to establish off-grid solar energy markets?. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2017.11.003