Renewable energy and healthcare: IAPO at IRENA
Kawaldip Sehmi, IAPO CEO, attended the First International Conference on Renewable Energy for Healthcare (IRENA) in Singapore 2 November 2018 where a stimulating discussion took place around the availability of reliable, affordable and safe electricity supply that powers 90% of the health devices in use in the healthcare industry in diagnosis, treatment, communications and telemedicine. He shares the main takeaways with us.
It is estimated that over one billion people use healthcare facilities that are without access to an adequate electricity supply. While most large hospitals have round-the-clock access to power, electrification rates drop dramatically for rural clinics. In the absence of reliable power, many of the basic life-saving interventions cannot be undertaken safely or at all.
This impacts the provision of a sufficient quantity of accessible, safe, quality, reliable and affordable healthcare services with operating health devices. The global impact is that this will affect the delivery of sustainable development goals 2030, particularly that of delivering universal health coverage by 2030 to all people, of all ages and gender, and in all regions.
In this context, off-grid renewable energy solutions present a key opportunity to provide clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity to rural health centres, which can dramatically transform the quality of healthcare services provided to rural communities. In particular, the dramatic cost reductions and technological improvement of renewable energy technologies in the past decade makes renewables an economically and technically viable solution that can be rapidly deployed.
Several successful examples of renewable-based systems powering rural health clinics have already had a broad transformative impact on the quality of life of rural communities. However, a more widespread deployment of off-grid solutions for health centres is often hampered by institutional barriers and gaps of policy and financial nature.
Over 90% of the health devices now used in the healthcare industry in the diagnosis, treatment, communications and telemedicine operate on electricity. (WHO Technical Specifications for Medical Devices)
With an increasing number of smart phone health apps being produced for patients and with the transfer of healthcare from the hospital and health care facilities to the primary health care and near-patient (self-care) locations, there is a great need now to review how accessible these health services and devices are in light of availability of reliable, affordable and safe electricity supply.
Within the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, the International Alliance of Patients Organizations has to reflect upon the achievement of Goal 3: Good health and well-being for people: "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” while ensuring that rest of the world meets Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy: "Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all"
Goal 7 has another health impact. Respiratory diseases, part of the Non Communicable Diseases Agenda, are exasperated by coal and fuel oil fired power stations. Generation of clean energy will reduce respiratory diseases.
SDG 3 and 7 must be looked at together.
Singapore Government and International Renewable Energy Agency
Conference rational behind combining SDG 3 Health and SDG 7 Energy
- IAPO presented at the panel: Decentralised renewable energy in healthcare: The energy-health nexus
- IAPO also contributed towards the debates: Facilitating financing and optimising delivery models for decentralised renewable energy for rural health centres
- Patients need access to a sufficient quantity of safe, quality and affordable health care devices and healthcare services. This is part of SDG 3 UHC. However, there needs to be a commensurate expansion of electricity supply to expand UHC. This needs to be in line with SDG 7: "Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all"
- Patients, as users of health devices and health care services, can participate and advise power generation and grid system designers as to their use patterns and power needs.
- Patients can sometimes be electrical engineers and installers in their own rights. These ‘double expert patients’ are invaluable to both the power suppliers and the health care service providers.
- Community owned off-grid systems can offer patients the opportunity to engage with and participate as trustees of these local off-grid trusts and also an opportunity to train-up to become maintenance electricians and meter revenue collectors.
- Patient Entrepreneurs like Amin Zayani, a solar energy engineer and hardware expert, are revolutionizing health devices market through patient-led and owned start-up companies like Med Angel. https://lyfebulb.com/2017/12/06/interview-series-amin-zayani-lbnn-2017-winner/
- We must hold a SDG 3 and SDG7 Patient’s Conference or side-event at WHO World Health Assembly. IRENA and its supporters will welcome application for funding.
For more information on this, get in touch with Kawaldip using firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Solar Energy Inertnational (SEI)