The controversy that shrouded the outcome of the just concluded"/>
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Renewable Energy for Powering PHCS

Thursday, 11 October 2018

The controversy that shrouded the outcome of the just concluded Osun Governorship election amidst lack of confidence in the electoral commission may just be another reason behind the diminishing turnout in Nigeria’s election ahead of 2019 general elections. Since the 2015 general elections, statistics have shown that while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may have steadily improved in deployment of materials and conduct of elections generally, this has not translated into increased voter turnout during elections. This is no doubt a worrying trend ahead of the 2019 general e

Since WHO pioneered the deployment of various types of energy sources over the last four decades for the vaccine cold chain for its expanded programme on immunization, it has become very obvious that solar energy technology would play critical role in providing alternative power source to ensure good quality and safe vaccine storage in remote health centres. Increasingly, evidence has crystallised that “the introduction of solar power has the ability to significantly improve healthcare delivery to poor and rural communities”.

For example, a study in Sarguja, a district in India’s central state of Chhattisgarh, finds that “on average, health facilities with solar treated 50% more out-patients each month, conducted 50% higher institutional deliveries, admitted a higher number of in-patients as well as provided round the clock services”. Thus, health facilities with solar power performed significantly better than those without; thereby establishing connection between access to reliable electricity by health facilities and better health outcome in rural communities. This is because, “regular and reliable provision of electricity to healthcare facilities is important for their effective operation. In many developing countries, over one-half of healthcare facilities have no electricity or lack reliable electricity.”

It is a common knowledge that Nigeria’s power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure are not commensurate with the energy demands of the population (including reliable electricity for healthcare facilities). The question therefore remains: what is the proportion of health facilities with reliable 24-hour supply of electricity in Nigeria? What is the electricity need of community health facilities? What is the impact of lack of access to reliable electricity on our health outcome in Nigeria (particularly in rural areas)? This is necessary because, most of our healthcare facilities lack access to reliable electricity. Even the lowest health facility at the level of a post or dispensary requires being connected to national grid and or other regular alternative power source. Health facilities depend on access to reliable electricity for functioning at night, operating diagnostic equipment, pumping water, vaccine storage, and managing hazardous waste materials, etc.

According to renewable energy experts, solar systems have several advantages; they provide flexibility to design that can cater to the power load of a health centre, reliability of performance, critical loads such as vaccine refrigerators, and service to remote or hard to reach areas where access-related challenges are most acute. It is estimated that the solar potential of Nigeria ranges between 4.0kWh/m2/day to 6.5kWh/m2/day for average of five hours every day according to a report on Nigeria’s Energy Calculator 2050 (NECAL 2050). In 2010, Nigeria was reported to have 0.015GW Stand Alone Solar (SAS) PV installation and no grid solar PV installation.

The legislative framework provided under parts VIII and IX of the Nigeria’s Electric Power Sector Reform [EPSR] Act OF 2005 can be explored to create macro level fiscal space to accommodate PHCs particularly those located in remote places in our rural electrification programme. To this end, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in collaboration with National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) can provide 2kWh off grid solar PV systems with battery backup to thousands of PHCs across the country. This would be in line with sustainable energy for all action agenda (SE4ALL-AA) established by an inter-ministerial committee on renewable energy and energy efficiency (ICREE) which set the target of electrifying up to 90% of the community healthcare facilities by 2030 for Nigeria.

As severally pointed out at many stakeholders’ levels, “accelerating deployment of renewable energy to health centres is a need of the hours”; moreover, “powering health systems through renewable energy such as solar could address energy (sustainable development goal seven) and health (sustainable development goal three) concerns simultaneously.” The availability of reliable and regular electricity to run 24 hours health services at the primary healthcare centres is critical if the goal of universal health coverage would be reached. According to WHO’s health indicators of sustainable energy, health offers a universal indicator of progress in attaining the UN Secretary General’s goals for sustainable energy for all.

About IWIN

The Independent Energy Watch Initiative (I-WIN), an enterprise of Energy ConServ and the Roundtable for the Growth and Development of Power (RODEP), is an online/web based power sector portal that strives to engage stakeholders and the Nigerian public on topical issues in the power sector.

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