Investigate Electrification Options

A rural health clinic in Haiti
A rural health clinic in Haiti
USAID

Health facilities can secure power from a local service provider or generate it themselves. Both choices have benefits and drawbacks to consider.

Explore Nearby Grid and Mini-Grid Options

Health facilities are in the business of providing quality health services, not operating energy systems. It is cheaper and less work for health-care facility staff if the facility connects to a national grid or a local mini-grid. If a health-care facility is close to the national grid, an analysis of the grid extension and energy costs may show that a grid extension can provide reliable power for lower prices than generating it on-site. If grid extension is not a cost-effective option, a mini-grid serving a health facility and local community may be a viable solution. Mini-grids based on traditional fuels (and some renewable technologies) sometimes provide intermittent power that is insufficient to meet a health facility’s needs. Even if grid or mini-grid power provides intermittent or low-quality power, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) can be designed to store intermittent power and condition low-quality power. It is common for health-care facilities to use backup generators as an alternative to UPSs, but the expense and logistics involved in fueling generators can be challenging. Factors that donors, project managers, and facility managers should examine when choosing on-grid back-up and conditioning systems include:

  • Reliability and quality of the local grid (if applicable)
  • Government policies and incentives
  • System reliability requirements
  • Life-cycle costs of UPS systems and backup generation options

Explore On-Site Generation Options

Remote facilities are frequently outside the reach of economically viable grid extensions or mini-grids, so these facilities will have to investigate electrification options that generate power on-site. On-site generation solutions should be evaluated based on local energy availability (like a nearby stream for hydropower or windy conditions for wind turbines) and total installation and operation costs. It is also worthwhile to assess the feasibility of hybridizing multiple energy sources into one energy system. Solar-diesel and solar-wind are common hybrid energy systems that combine the strengths and mitigate the drawbacks of various energy sources. An energy system’s cost is proportional to generation capacity, so it is important to match system generation capacity to the health facility’s typical daily energy needs and planned demand growth without needlessly oversizing the system. Some of the factors that donors, project managers, and off-grid facility managers need to consider when selecting the best technology option include:

  • Life-cycle costs of different on-site generation technology options
  • Local renewable energy resources (wind, solar, biomass)
  • Local cost and availability of conventional energy resources (diesel, propane, gasoline)
  • Local availability of systems, parts, service companies, and technicians
  • Government policies and incentives
  • System reliability requirements
  • Technical capacity and funds for system maintenance and replacement
  • Special considerations or desired operational characteristics, i.e., noise, emissions, etc.

Additional information about on-grid backup system options (uninterruptible power supplies), and on-site generation technologies (photovoltaic (PV) arrays and battery and battery management) can be found on the pages linked below.

Additional Resources

  • Energy System Components

    Batteries and Battery Management

    Batteries provide backup power during gaps in electricity generation. They are critical for some energy systems but are expensive and may require maintenance or replacement. Learn more

  • Energy System Components

    Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

    PV systems generate electricity from sunlight collected by solar panels. This energy can be used directly or stored in batteries. Learn more

  • Energy System Components

    Uninterruptible Power Supplies

    Uninterruptible power supplies provide backup power, protecting equipment from damage in the event of grid power failure. Learn more

Last updated: June 18, 2020

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