Renewable Energy for Resilient Healthcare Systems in Rural Areas
This contributes to reliable access to off-grid energy for healthcare facilities in Nigeria effectively to combat the pandemic, building on CEPMLP’s network of local policymakers and academics.
UK Global Challenges Research Fund, Scottish Funding Council
Despite having fewer COVID-19 cases, Nigeria’s healthcare system was crippling even before the pandemic. The poor health infrastructure threatens the access and treatment of COVID-19 and other non-related diseases. About 48% of the Nigerian population lives in rural areas, where access to public/private health facilities is poor. The main challenges include the lack of testing, poor health infrastructure, few privately-run hospitals, and inadequately trained health professionals.
In 2020, the off-grid energy impact investing company All-On and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) announced the funding to provide solar energy infrastructure coupled with battery storage as a technical solution for energy concerns in the health facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Solar power for health facilities can ensure reliable and uninterrupted electricity supply to power water pumps, ventilators, medical devices, laboratory tests, and refrigerated vaccines and medicines. It can improve access to health services for vulnerable people in marginalised areas, decrease electricity costs, ensure power supply throughout the day, and reduce carbon emissions. Another advantage is the way solar panels can be quickly deployed comparing to alternatives.
RE investments in the health sector require innovative business models for sustainable impact. To support RE for health facilities, public and private cooperation must address the limited resources available to deliver essential medical services and ongoing uncertainties to pay for the RE costs.
With the decreased costs of the RE technologies over the last two decades and several incentives from governments, donors, and NGOs to support the installation costs, putting solar panels in health facilities is no longer the primary concern. Such infrastructures require financial and human resources to ensure the systems work long term, avoiding the risks to become 'stranded assets.' Therefore, the business models of RE for health facilities must create opportunities for continued funding for long-term operation and maintenance from external sources.
Professor Volker Roeben,
Dr Maria Augusta Paim