On November 23, 2018, West Coast Energy was the first private sector company that hosted the Integrated Forum for Renewable Energy in Liberia (IFREL).Various other energy stakeholders discussed relevant issues during the meeting, representing among others Rural and Renewable Energy Agency (RREA), Total, Power house Center, Ceci energy, EU delegation, Accountability lab, ELWA hospital, GIZ/EnDev. As Host of the meeting, West Coast Energy presented their activities. They sell and install solar equipment of various producers, partnering with African Energy, Morningstar, Sunpump, Groundfos, Deka, and Rolls batteries.
Tailoring for the needs of their customers, West Coast also works with an American startup, Lee consulting, to develop Solar SAIPAY, a pay as you go system to pay in monthly installments. Sam from West Coast Energy also informed about their marketing activities that include their professional website, performance based customer recommendation and facebook. They also gave a tour to a solar battery that has been functional for 17 years, powering sewing machines and lights.
After the presentation, the energy stakeholders discussed various challenges such as security, marketing, importing quality control, low quality products that are in the market etc.
It would be good to offer packages for different needs and abilities to afford. Since importing, storage, transport are very expensive, higher numbers are important to make it affordable, as well as payment options such as pay as you go. Another relevant issues are taxes for solar and improved cooking products. The taxes are high for batteries, inverters, charge controllers and improved cook stoves, making it difficult to sell at affordable prices. For effective advocacy in this direction, facts and figures are important. Once again, the lack of data was noticed.
Reliable data, overviews of what is on the market, what can be on the market and stakeholder communications are crucial to avoid duplications or other ways to waste time and money. Stakeholders were encouraged to contribute towards data collection with the free EnDev-Collect app for registration and monitoring of solar system installations, and by providing information about their activities at www.renewables-liberia.info , and the associate facebook page, which can also help with marketing, reaching a broad audience.