Advancing Renewable Energy Can Transform Healthcare in Rural Communities

17 October 2018| Articles


Among the many issues facing rural communities today, a lack of access to adequate healthcare is undoubtedly one of the most important. The World Health Organisation estimates that at least half of the world’s population currently lacks essential health services and mortality rates from preventable diseases remain problematic.

While the issue is complex, a clear opportunity exists to contribute through the provision of reliable, cost-effective renewable power. For the one billion or so people still living without reliable energy access, the deployment of tailored renewable energy solutions could positively transform socio-economic outcomes addressing a number of goals across the sustainable development spectrum.  

The Renewable Energy Solutions for Healthcare Facilities conference organised by IRENA during Singapore International Energy Week, will explore this potential. A first of its kind, the conference will bridge the fields of energy and healthcare to explore and co-develop meaningful pathways to better healthcare through the accelerated deployment of decentralised renewable technologies.

The conference will analyse the energy-health nexus, and seek to encourage actionable outcomes on:

  • New policy approaches to foster cooperation between energy and health communities
  • Tailored financing and delivery models for decentralised renewables solutions for rural health centres
  • Innovations in medical devices and health service delivery tailored to low resource settings

There is already significant momentum for off-grid renewable energy. Innovations in technology and business models, together with falling costs have supported their rapid uptake across Asia, Africa and Latin America. IRENA’s Off-grid Renewable Energy Solutions report released earlier this year identified a six-fold increase in off-grid adoption since 2011, revealing that they may now serve up to 133 million people.

The growth contributes significantly to global efforts aimed at tackling energy poverty and improving access in line with sustainable development goal 7. This is merely the entry point. More consistent and reliable electricity is also widely recognised for delivering myriad socio-economic benefits including job creation, improved education and poverty reduction. 

But renewable power’s ability to enable better healthcare outcomes is notable. From necessities, such as lighting, heating and refrigeration, to essential devices that require power, such as ultrasound and resuscitation ventilators, renewable energy can play a central role delivering better healthcare and improving lives for the one billion people around the world served by health facilities lacking adequate electricity. 

“A first of its kind, the Renewable Energy Solutions for Healthcare Facilities conference will bridge the fields of energy and healthcare to co-develop meaningful pathways to better healthcare”

The WHO believes vaccine refrigeration capacity needs to increase eight-fold by 2025. Innovative technologies such as solar-powered refrigerators, can dramatically improve healthcare provision allowing care givers to preserve vaccines and antibiotics – life saving medicines that can completely lose their effectiveness unless stored at very specific temperatures.

Off-grid renewable power could save millions of preventable deaths in the coming years. Bringing the healthcare and renewable energy communities together to integrate planning and maximize synergies can provide rare opportunity to catalyse progress. With the sustainable development goals a little over a decade away, the need for meaningful, action-oriented, cross-sectoral dialogue is now.

The International Renewable Energy for Healthcare conference will take place during Singapore International Energy Week on the 2nd of November, 2018. Attendance is free of charge.

Find out more and register to attend

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