As the shift towards phasing out fossil fuels is gradually increasing in the world, The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in collaboration with the Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) is launching a pilot program in order to determine if health facilities such as primary health centres could be powered by clean, renewable energy.
The initiative will focus on solar power generated through photovoltaic cells and will be tested at a small scale to evaluate the feasibility of such a program. As of now, three or four locations are being considered I states such as Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Haryana and Maharashtra, as they have shown an interest in the project. According to Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the CEEW, hospitals have to fill certain criteria’s in order to be selected for the program such as having less than 10 hours of electricity, an existing infrastructure for new born care, 80 to 90 deliveries per month, a 24×7 functionality and most importantly proper maintenance of records.
This initiative was created following a study by the group Solar for Powering Health and Education in India demonstrating that about 4.4 percent of primary health centres of the country are un-electrified. This translates into an estimated 33 million Indians mainly in rural areas that rely on facilities which are devoid of electrical power to maintain day to day operations. The study shows that such facilities are to be found in the rural, hilly and tribal Eastern, North and North-Eastern parts of the nation, the highest being Jharkhand with 42.5 percent of its primary health centres un-electrified.
Although being a pilot project, a handful of hospitals have already shifted towards solar energy with the example of Shajapur’s Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar district hospital which cares for around 500 patients a day. The facility has been granted 3.2 million rupees by The Madhya Pradesh Energy Development Corporation (MPEDC) to install a 20 kilowatt solar unit that will not only allow a 30 percent decrease in electricity bills, but also shelter the hospital in case of power cuts thanks to the solar panels charging batteries with during the day, providing 8 hours of uninterrupted electrical flow.