Solar module industry in trouble for lack of accredited labs

Dhaka, July 25 –  Bangladesh’s solar module manufacturers are in trouble in promoting their products due to lack of international accreditation of local testing laboratories.
According to official sources, there are two testing labs in the country to ascertain the quality and standard of solar panels and other relevant equipment. One of the labs has been set up at state-owned Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) in Dhaka while another at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) has played a supportive role in setting up these two laboratories as it promotes the development of renewable energy in the country, the sources said.
But local solar module manufacturers are not happy with the facilities of these two laboratories as they do not have international accreditation.
“Since these two labs have no international accreditation, their certifications are not useful in businesses like the supply of solar modules to local projects or export,” said Munawar Moin, president of Solar Module Manufacturers Association (SMMAB)

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Munawar Moin said the supply of local solar products requires certificates from the laboratories which have accreditation from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), a global body.
The IEC has been the appropriate body for the accreditation of international standards and conformity assessment for all electrical, electronic and related technologies, he said.
Moin said the suppliers need the international certificate to qualify for supplying their products to foreign-funded projects while such certificates are also required for export business as well.
According to him, local labs can issue such certificates if they have IEC accreditation.
Admitting the lacking, Sreda chairman Mohammad Alauddin said Sreda will take initiatives so that the two labs can have the IEC accreditation to issue quality and standard certificates to local solar module manufacturers.
A former member of Sreda Siddique Zobair said if the local labs want IEC accreditation, they have to ensure certain compliances about standards as the international body will conduct an audit every year.
According to solar industry insiders, there are nine local companies which now have the capacity to produce solar panels equivalent to about 100 MW against the current annual demand of the same level.
“But they now produce only 20MW equivalent panels for lack of government policy support while 80 MW is met by imported panels from China, India and some other countries.
“If we can have international standard certificates from local labs having international accreditation, it’ll help us increase both domestic supply and international export. And we won’t require to spend money on receiving standard and quality certificates from foreign agencies,” said the SMMAB president.
He also said the Bangladesh Standard and Testing Institution (BSTI) can also take an initiative to issue the IEC-accredited certificates by establishing its own laboratory facilities.
According to the Power Division, the government has set a target of generating 10 percent electricity from renewable energy by 2020 which means at least 2000 MW of power should come from renewable sources.
But so far only 600 MW electricity is coming from renewable sources, mostly from solar home system, the biggest programme with 6.4 million panels.
In such a situation, the SMMAB leaders said both the government and private sector should work together to achieve the goals. – UNB