Recent studies show that more than 1 billion people around the world live without electricity – more than half of whom are in Africa. Efforts are underway to reduce that number, however population growth, temperature increases, and the increased use of power-hungry devices, make the efficient and reliable distribution of electricity a challenge – an expensive one at that.
Moreover, the economic tolls in Africa arising from the Covid-19 lockdowns have further impacted the continent’s energy and health systems delivery; both of which are leading to higher mortality rates.
To revamp inadequate health care facilities, including the emergency isolation and treatment centres, alternative and sustainable power supply systems are urgently required. As such, Greenage Energy has collaborated with South African manufacturer Zero to design and produce an off-grid medical cooling system powered by the sun under a new brand Medicool. Medicool, is facilitating the adoption of their new refrigeration technologies through the innovative Cooling as a Service (CaaS) business model.
CaaS for healthcare
This medical cooling concept came about after Chris Edeh, African Alternative Energy Association’s Executive Director, worked with Zero as part of the maintenance team that serviced the cooling units in the clinics in South Africa (including Unjani mobile clinics) using the new CaaS business model.
Because the CaaS model eliminates upfront investment in cooling technology for healthcare operators who, instead, pay per unit of cooling they consume, it therefore strengthens the incentives for efficient consumption with built-in preventative maintenance.
Since introduction, the model has been transforming healthcare delivery services by helping to alleviate the burden on public health systems. This has improved access to quality, affordable primary care services for the less privileged. The product has also been empowering nurses and caregivers to own and operate their own sustainable healthcare clinics.
“This project highlighted the need for efficient preservation of vaccines and basic life-saving medications in saving the lives of mothers and babies at birth by reducing spoilage of vaccines in areas that lack electricity to store and cool vaccines in African countries,” said Medicool Chairman, Dr Emmanuel Onyejeose.
Medicool provides clinics, maternity homes, and immunisation centres with the Tier 1 solar vaccines fridges on a CaaS basis with no upfront cost required from the operators. The maintenance services are outsourced to trained local entrepreneurs and therefore save money for owners while reducing carbon emissions, creating jobs, and increasing energy access. This realises capital for more productive use for the healthcare centre.
Potential for CaaS in Africa
As populations grow and temperatures rise with the prevailing climate change, the health and economic risks associated with cooling are growing exponentially. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation estimates that only10% of healthcare facilities in the world’s poorest countries have a reliable electricity supply.
In Nigeria, for example, over 85% of healthcare facilities have no adequate access to the grid power. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 50% of vaccines could be wasted globally every year because of inadequate temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues.
“Our objective is to demonstrate the viability of placing solar powered refrigerators with data loggers bundled with maintenance in healthcare centres on a cooling services model to attract further investment to scale and reach out to the last mile,” said Onyejeose. “This will scale up and reach over one million operators that lack reliable access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Medicool aims to raise funding to deploy these units in 390 primary healthcare facilities and 43 cottage hospitals across Enugu State, South-Eastern of Nigeria, where for several years, the hospitals have been serviced by erratic national electricity grid. Some of the facilities receive less than eight hours of electricity each month and two hours of generator-powered supply per day, while those in the rural areas are suffering even more.
This is far too short a supply for effective care of patients – which have more than doubled since the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic. This project demonstrates that the private sector could be willing to provide emergency, clean, safe, and reliable energy to the healthcare delivery to enable caregivers to perform more efficiently at the current COVID 19 pandemic. “This will also promote the adoption of energy-efficient and climate-friendly energy solutions to the health care sector. Besides, it will showcase the potential in scalability to funders and investors across the African market,” said Onyejeose.
“It is reckoned that off-grid cold storage technology solutions could remain a nascent business model if the technology awareness is not tested and adequately commercialised,” said Onyejeose. ”Medicool seeks to stimulate off-grid cold chain refrigeration for healthcare and related businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, enabling better experience in the industry.”
Research shows that financing energy access is not flowing at the speed or scale needed to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7). Medicool’s strategy is to cater for one million healthcare facilities in the next three years. The strategy will create over 10 000 jobs with the training of local installers to support the units. The scheme will provide incentives for healthcare entrepreneurs and enable upgrading the asset ownership at the end of the contract.
Onyejose said the disruption of energy systems as a consequence of Covid-19 pandemic provides ample opportunity to access clean alternative energy and expand economic growth. It also provides an opportunity to reduce carbon emissions by hastening the deployment of alternative energy pathways. Dr Onyejeose said that Africa’s policy makers, energy business leaders and entrepreneurial investors cannot afford to wait for the dust to settle on the Covid-19 pandemic crisis before taking action.