Kieran, the question of subsidies is challenging. On a general level, they help and they hurt, it just depends whose perspective you are taking. Speaking more specifically, there is broad agreement that if renewable based mini-grids are to take off, then the amounts disbursed as diesel subsidies have to be reduced or phased out. Preferably these subsidies would be directed towards renewables to support their uptake. But even these would have to be over a specified period since subsidies distort markets and at some point market mechanisms should be allowed free rein. In practice, entrenched interests make it difficult to shift subsidies away from diesel to renewables. It would take significant political will to achieve this. In a conversation I had with an India-based policy analyst, she mentioned that while there was a stated commitment to phase-out diesel subsidies in the state of Bihar, this was not occurring as the state government was apprehensive about the knock-on effects that would impact the agriculture and transport sectors.
In terms of quality standards, conversations I have had with East Africa based practitioners point to their necessity. They mentioned increasing consumer wariness caused by entry of sub-standard goods into the market. When the devices did not perform as expected, consumers naturally became skeptical. Unfortunately this was extended even to quality products which inhibited their uptake. While businesses may make short-term gains from selling cheap, sub-standard goods, in the long-term this undermines the market for renewable based equipment.