|Photovoltaic Household Electrification Programs - Best Practices (WB)|
7.37 Customer satisfaction with solar home systems also depends on the user education provided by program administrators, technicians, and suppliers. The education program should cover routine maintenance procedures such as watering batteries (including how to collect clean rainwater if distilled water is not readily available), interpreting control panel information, managing loads, solar access, and replacing fuses and bulbs. Customer education should also make clear the capabilities and limitations of the particular solar home system.
7.38 "Overselling" the capabilities of solar home systems can quickly lead to customer dissatisfaction and poor repayment levels. In the Pansiyagama Project in Sri Lanka, overzealous promoters showed videos of PV-operated sewing machines, pumps, and power tools to prospective customers. The 21-Wp and 52-Wp systems subsequently installed under the project could not run these appliances. This resulted in unhappy customers and service problems in collecting fees. Educating users about recurring system costs, particularly the need to replace automotive batteries every two to three years, is also important.
7.39 In Sri Lanka, regular visits from technicians during the first year helped train families to use their systems properly and to learn effective load management practices. User education should be directed at the persons in the households responsible for the routine maintenance. These are generally older children or women. Women and children typically derive greater benefits than men do from the solar home systems. They are willing and interested in taking a proportionate share in caring for their systems. In many countries, children from the ages of 11-15 are also those household members most interested in the technical aspects of the solar home system and are therefore more likely to understand the load management principles. To increase involvement of women and children, training should take place in the home whenever possible, preferably with the installation team or technician providing information based on materials and guidelines supplied by the vendor. Solar home system programs also afford excellent opportunities to train women for both administrative and technical positions.
7.40 In summary, technical performance is key to the long-term sustainability of a PV household electrification program. Consumers need well-designed, properly assembled, and correctly installed products that are affordable and fit their budgets. Overselling must be avoided. Spare parts should be easily available as well as local, appropriately trained technicians to provide maintenance and repair services. User education should target those members of the household most affected by the system and best able to perform routine maintenance tasks.