The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has released a new technical specification for solar-powered light-emitting diode (LED) lighting devices, such as solar lanterns. The new specification was announced by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to ministers gathered in New Delhi for the fourth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM4). Solar lanterns are important sources of light after dark in rural communities without access to electricity in developing countries. The new standard represents an important step that enables governments to harmonize their national standards with this international standard, thereby paving the way for market expansion for quality-assured devices. "The new IEC standard represents important progress in the effort to expand access to modern off-grid lighting among low-income households in developing countries," said Arne Jacobson, Director of the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University, who served as technical lead for the team that drafted the IEC document. "The standard will serve as a cornerstone in efforts to create an internationally harmonized quality assurance program for affordable off-grid lighting and energy systems that supports commercial market delivery and protects consumer interests." The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) is a forum of 23 major-economy governments whose energy ministers meet annually to drive progress in the clean energy sector. Through the CEM, the Italian and United States governments have provided support for the development of a quality assurance framework for solar lanterns as part of the CEM's Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP). The quality assurance framework was originally developed for the Lighting Global program, which has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy for the last 15 months to institutionalize its test methods and quality metrics through the IEC. Around 1.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity and use polluting and expensive fuels for lighting. A globally harmonized quality assurance framework means that people at the base of the pyramid will have more choices for quality, modern off-grid lighting products, such as solar lamps. It eliminates the need to test the same product for each different market, reducing the associated costs incurred by companies. These savings can be transferred to buyers through lower-priced, quality products. The Lighting Global quality assurance framework is one of the cornerstone market development activities of Lighting Africa, a joint International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank program that has enabled about 7 million people in Africa to access clean, affordable lighting. It has to date tested more than 100 off-grid lighting products, 46 of which have met quality and performance standards and are currently on the market. The IFC and the World Bank are members of the Global LEAP initiative. The International Electrotechnical Commission .