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How is SEforALL supporting the global fight against COVID-19?

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Organizations all over the world are having to adapt the way they carry out their work because of COVID-19. But as an organization dedicated to helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people, it is not enough for SEforALL to simply adjust “how” we work. Now, more than ever, we are espousing the principle of leave no one behind to guide “what” we work on. We are reprioritizing SEforALL’s efforts and resources towards supporting a global response to the pandemic.

SEforALL has initiated several activities in the past month focused on raising awareness of the importance of energy access during this pandemic, marshaling data and evidence to inform policy and investment decisions, and bringing stakeholders together to devise strategies for the energy sector during the COVID-19 crisis.

Our COVID-19 response to date includes the following activities:

"Power in a pandemic" op-ed by CEO Damilola Ogunbiyi

On 31 March, an Op-Ed by Damilola Ogunbiyi called “Power in a pandemic - why energy access matters during coronavirus” was published by the Thompson Reuters Foundation News.

Ogunbiyi highlighted how energy is a critical input for any country’s emergency response plan, whether it’s for disseminating public health information or running medical equipment for treating those infected, among other uses. A lack of energy access will exacerbate the human cost of this crisis. She also explained how energy access is critical for restarting our economies once a public health threat has subsided.

Therefore, she outlined three measures related to the energy sector that the world should immediately act upon to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19:

  1. Prioritize energy solutions to power health clinics and first responders
  2. Keep vulnerable consumers connected
  3. Increase reliable, uninterrupted and sufficient energy production in preparation for a more sustainable economic recovery

Estimating the COVID-19 impact to off-grid energy companies

Access to electricity keeps people connected, protects vulnerable populations, keeps ventilators on and saves lives. Off-grid companies are critical for reaching populations beyond the grid and for more rapid deployment of electricity solutions, for households and for health clinics. Yet, the current pandemic is disrupting their operations and threatening their ability to provide vital power.

Recognizing the critical role these businesses have in protecting vulnerable groups, SEforALL, in conjunction with partners, conducted outreach through surveys and questionnaires to establish a data-driven perspective on both the immediate impact of the pandemic on the mini-grid and solar home systems sectors as well as anticipated impacts related to the economic disruption. The data and information collected and analyzed will be critical to identifying the support and interventions that may be needed for the sector.

We surveyed over 80 Mini-Grid (MG) and Solar Home System (SHS) companies serving more than 1.9 million customers. We obtained data from GOGLA, AMDA as well as Smart Power India and interviewed more than a dozen Mini-Grid and Solar Home System companies to further complement the data.

Key findings of this survey.
 

Organizing a virtual event on off-grid sector impacts and solutions

The data and insights gained through our surveys and questionnaires were the basis for a virtual event on 16 April co-organized with The Rockefeller Foundation. The "Virtual High-Level Dialogue: COVID-19 Impact to and Solutions for the Off-Grid Sector" shared a data-driven perspective of the off-grid sector with an influential group of leaders from financial institutions, philanthropies, impact investors and donor organizations. The dialogue helped identify and initiate solutions to help ensure mini-grid developers and solar home system solution providers can survive and are able to ramp back up operations quickly once economic activities begin returning to normal.

Contributing to the UN’s Secretary-General's "Recover Better" strategy

SEforALL also provided input to the UN’s Secretary-General’s "Recover Better" strategy, which provides a vision for a recovery that leads to more inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change and other global challenges, with our global roadmap remaining the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.

We outlined principles that should be applied to the energy sector, for both developed and developing countries, including on access to electricity and clean cooking, energy efficiency, and coal phase-out, among others.

Co-convening a technical webinar on managing utility operations during COVID-19

SEforALL was a co-convener for a technical webinar for electricity utilities called "Managing Utility Operations in the Context of COVID-19: The Enel Experience", presented by The Rockefeller Foundation and Enel Foundation. The webinar covered technical and operational best practices during the COVID-19 emergency, drawing on Enel’s experience in Italy and Spain, with a focus on energy infrastructure, resilience and local community protection.

Introducing a refreshed Powering Healthcare program

To respond to the immediate crisis and over the longer term, we are refreshing our work at the intersection of energy and health to reflect new challenges and to reiterate the importance of energy to healthcare.

In the short-term, to help with the COVID-19 response, SEforALL is working to coordinate the energy and health sectors to ensure that the power needs of health facilities and emergency health infrastructure are well understood and being met with appropriate energy solutions.

Our past research from Lasting Impact: Sustainable Off-Grid Solar Delivery Models to Power Health and Education will be valuable in informing our efforts helping governments and businesses with their COVID-19 responses. The long-term goal of our Powering Healthcare program is to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy solutions in health facilities in order to create stronger and more resilient health systems in Africa and Asia.

To that end, SEforALL will:

  • Build an investment case for powering healthcare to ensure access to adequate and reliable power in health facilities is prioritized as a necessary input to achieving public health and energy/climate goals.
  • Create the core ‘building blocks’ for delivering distributed clean energy solutions to healthcare facilities at scale and in a sustainable manner. SEforALL is designing and leading this initiative and building a coalition of partners from the energy, health and development sectors to support it.

SEforALL will continue to build on the above activities and establish new ones as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

 

Photo credit: ADB