Significant opportunity for climate finance to power healthcare facilities in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa: new report
Sufficient and reliable electricity is essential for delivering quality healthcare. Yet, approximately 1 billion people around the world are served by healthcare facilities without reliable electricity access or with no electricity access at all.
A new report released today at COP28 examines how climate finance, such as grants, loans and investments to support the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate impacts, can help power healthcare facilities with renewable energy.
The report titled Climate Finance for Powering Healthcare identifies strong climate, economic, and development rationale for investing in low-carbon and resilient technologies in healthcare facilities.
Currently, a large proportion of the healthcare sector in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa is powered by diesel or petrol generators and does not have a continuous supply of electricity. The report estimates that if all these energy-deficient facilities were to adopt a clean energy solution like stand-alone solar PV systems, it would result in annual cost savings of USD 136–201 million and USD 37–62 million, and 0.33–0.54 MtCO2 and 0.35–0.43 MtCO2 GHG emissions savings in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa respectively.
“We have nearly a billion people worldwide whose health is being compromised by the fact that they can’t go to a hospital or clinic that has a stable electricity connection. These same people are disproportionately at risk to the adverse effects of climate change. Mobilizing climate finance to electrify health facilities with renewable energy contributes to climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, and the development goal of ensuring everyone has access to quality healthcare.”
Rahul Srinivasan, Senior Energy Specialist, SEforALL
Considering the rapidly changing climate and, consequently, the increasing frequency of diseases and natural disasters, it is important that our healthcare systems can deliver effective and high-quality service, which renewable energy systems can offer.
Despite this compelling case, the report highlights several barriers to making this switch to a climate-resilient healthcare sector. For example, in most countries in the Global South, the national or local government would not be able to fully fund these projects, and there has been limited discussion on the potential of private sector financing. Given that health budgets for most countries in the regions are already extremely stretched, climate finance could serve as a significant additional source of investment.
According to the report, the volume of climate finance has steadily increased over the last decade, reaching USD 632 billion globally in 2019/20. However, only three percent (USD 90 million) of climate finance between 2010 and 2021 went to off-grid renewable energy for community purposes, covering healthcare and education facilities and streetlighting in low- and middle-income countries.
In light of this, the report offers recommendations on what organizations and development partners can do to mobilize climate finance. The first step is to raise awareness about the climate and economic benefits of investing in low-carbon and resilience-building measures in healthcare facilities, and increase demand for climate finance. Installing solar PV systems has so far received maximum government and funder attention, but it is important to place health facility electrification within the wider narrative of climate change and resilience.
Coordination is also key. There is an urgent need to bring together the many stakeholders at the intersection of energy, health and climate. Working groups like the Health and Telecommunications Alliance or the Health and Energy Platform for Action are great platforms for key players to join to expand the scope of discussion and action.
Finally, projects of this nature should ideally be designed to deliver benefits at scale, including nation-wide. This means an aggregation of multiple health facilities while also factoring in the localized energy and service needs of individual facilities. Projects should integrate climate finance with public or private financing for wider health sector investments, so that enhanced health, energy and climate outcomes go hand in hand.
Climate Finance for Powering Healthcare was developed by Sustainable Energy for All and Oxford Policy Management, with support from the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP). This publication is currently one of very few resources that explore the potential of climate finance to climate-proof healthcare facilities.