Sustainable Healthcare: The Role of Renewable Energy

As Ghana turns towards more sustainable practices, it’s exciting to see how renewable energy can make a significant impact in the healthcare sector. Hospitals and clinics are energy-intensive environments, they require uninterrupted power to operate life-saving equipment, maintain electronic health records, and ensure patient comfort. As technology continues to integrate into healthcare, achieving sustainability is not just beneficial; it’s crucial.

In Ghana, where economic constraints are a reality for many, healthcare budgets are often stretched thin. Traditional energy sources are not just expensive; they are also unreliable. Frequent power outages can cripple essential services, putting lives at risk.The integration of renewable energy technologies in the healthcare sector can significantly improve health outcomes and operational efficiency. According to a research conducted by us at Ahabanmono Impact, with data from Ghana Health Service, about 576 health facilities in the country lack access to electricity.

Power reliability is a significant issue in Ghana, where outages disrupt not just daily life but critical healthcare services. Power outages in hospitals are more than an inconvenience; they can be life-threatening. When generators fail due to a lack of fuel, critical medical equipment stops functioning, surgeries are interrupted, and patients in need of urgent care are left vulnerable. This scenario highlights the urgent need for a reliable and sustainable energy solution in Ghana’s healthcare facilities. Renewable energy sources like solar panels and battery storage systems provide a stable, reliable power supply, ensuring that hospitals can operate around the clock without interruption. This continuous power supply is essential not only for the functionality of medical equipment but also for the preservation of medicines that require refrigeration, like vaccines and insulin.

Solar energy offers a promising solution to the energy challenges faced by Ghanaian healthcare facilities. Here are some key advantages:

  1. Reliability: Solar power provides a dependable source of electricity, ensuring that hospitals can operate smoothly without interruption.
  2. Cost Savings: Solar PV installations can lead to significant cost savings. According to Francis Asante, CEO of Infra Futura, hospitals like Holy Family Hospital in Berekum and ST Mary’s Hospital with solar PV systems have experienced about 56% savings on energy costs. These savings can be reinvested into staff development and the acquisition of modern medical equipment such as lab devices and incubators which can contribute significantly to improving Health outcomes.
  3. Environmental Benefits: Solar energy reduces reliance on fossil fuels, decreasing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier environment. Imagine a hospital that not only heals its patients but also heals the environment. By adopting cleaner energy sources, healthcare facilities significantly reduce their carbon footprint. This leads to cleaner air and a healthier community, directly contributing to a decrease in respiratory ailments and other pollution-related health issues. It’s a proactive approach to public health, where healthcare settings contribute positively to the well-being of the community they serve.
  4. Energy Independence: By generating their own power, hospitals reduce their dependence on the national grid and fuel supplies, enhancing energy security.

Renewable energy increases a healthcare facility’s operational resilience, crucial during power outages. Solar panels and battery storage systems ensure that, in the event of a grid failure, critical services remain uninterrupted. This resilience is essential not only for patient safety but also for the continuity of essential care that saves lives.

Several healthcare facilities in Ghana have already embraced solar energy with remarkable results. One notable success is the initiative by Stella Futura under its SAHS (Sustainable Access to Healthcare Services) project. This project aims to improve energy access for healthcare facilities in Ghana. For example, St. Mary’s Catholic

Hospital in Drobo, Bono Region, now benefits from a 104 kWp grid-tied solar PV system. This system provides clean, reliable, and affordable electricity, reducing diesel consumption by 50% and achieving 72% daytime solar coverage. This initiative not only improves healthcare delivery but also supports e-mobility for vaccine distribution and remote public health services (AFSIA Solar) .

Holy Family Hospital in Delhi implemented a solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant to address high energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint. This installation saves the hospital approximately USD 4,314 per month and reduces CO2 emissions by 25 tonnes monthly. The project, managed by STEAG Energy Services India, includes 1,000 PV modules providing a peak output of 300 kW. The hospital’s initiative showcases how renewable energy can lead to substantial financial and environmental benefits, serving as an excellent model for similar implementations in Ghana . Ghana can also draw inspiration from global initiatives like Solar Aid for Ukraine, where renewable energy is being used to power critical health facilities in war-affected areas. This project not only provides immediate relief but also builds long-term resilience in healthcare infrastructure. Such models can be adapted to meet Ghana’s unique challenges, demonstrating the global applicability and benefits of solar health electrification

The shift towards renewable energy in Ghana’s healthcare sector is more than just a change in power sources; it’s a transformative approach that enhances efficiency, reliability, and public health outcomes. By addressing the challenges of energy reliability and high costs, renewable energy creates a sustainable and resilient healthcare system that benefits both providers and patients.

Let’s continue this conversation! How do you see renewable energy shaping the future of healthcare in Ghana? Could your local clinic or hospital benefit from this shift? Share your views and let’s discuss how we can collectively foster a healthier, more sustainable future.

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