Renewable Energy

Decentralised renewable energy vital for strengthening Jharkhand's health sector

Over 13% of health sub-centres and public health centres in Jharkhand not electrified 

 
By Maitreyi Karthik
Published: Monday 19 September 2022
Decentralised renewable energy vital for strengthening Jharkhand’s healtrh sector Photo: iStock

The Jharkhand State Solar Policy 2022 launched by Chief Minister Hemant Soren talks about boosting the capacity of renewable energy to 4,000 megawatts cumulatively by 2027. 

The policy will help the state move towards energy transition and decarbonisation of the energy sector through solar parks, canal top and floating solar projects, among others in the next five years.

The plan rolled out on July 5, 2022 will especially benefit the state’s healthcare institutions by reducing powercuts and enabling smooth functioning of equipment. 

Electricity access a struggle

Jharkhand is the 14th-largest Indian state with a population of 32 million people. The population is predominantly rural — around 76 per cent live in villages, according to Census 2011.

Despite government efforts, provisions for healthcare are restricted with such a large share of the population living in rural areas. 

One of the most important issues in Jharkhand’s healthcare system is the access to reliable sources of energy. Energy demand outweighs availability, entailing the need for generation capacity additions on a priority basis. 

The accessible electricity may not always be reliable, which is evident through the challenges faced by households, healthcare, schools both in urban and rural areas. 

Over 13 per cent of health sub-centres (HSC) and primary health centres (PHC) are yet to be electrified, the latest Rural Health Statistics report showed. 

This is in addition to problems such as sudden power outages that have crippled the state and provides hindrance to the healthcare sector in functioning smoothly.

Functioning health centres

Sub-centres PHCs CHCs*
Rural Urban Rural Urban Rural Urban
3,848 0 291 59 171 5
Source: Rural Health Statistics 2020-2021; CHC*: Community Health Centre

Infrastructure facilities

Type of health centre Total  Without regular water supply  Without electric supply  Without all-weather motorable approach road
  Number Number Share (%) Number Share Number Share
Sub-centres 3,848 828 21.5 518 13.5    
PHC 291 17 5.8 39 13.4 40 13.7
Source: Rural Health Statistics 2020-2021

Due to a deficit in reliable and quality supply of electricity, the healthcare facilities have a shortage of functional supplies such as cold chain (freezers, refrigerators) for storing vaccines and new-born care equipment. 

Reliable sources of energy and water are major indicators of efficient dissemination of health services.

Ashwani Ashok, Jharkhand programme manager, PowerforAll, a global coalition of organisations working for global energy access, said: 

The survey by PowerforAll found that more than 44 per cent of the surveyed electrified health centres were experiencing issues with fluctuating electricity supplies. The efficient operation of healthcare facilities and their equipment requires reliable and quality power.

The major source of electricity for the state of Jharkhand is by coal, but still the state is grappling with issues of unreliable electricity. Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency (JREDA), in association with the Jharkhand Health department, have added a cumulative capacity of around 7 MW peak of solar photovoltaic for 423 health centres across the state, according to the PowerforAll survey.

Relate-Regulate-REinnovate in healthcare

Health facilities have a direct linkage with reliable and quality-centric electricity. When health services are facilitated using renewable energy they can lessen the influence of fossil fuels, help in decarbonising the sector with low running cost. 

Economically less-developed states of India – Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Odisha, Mizoram, Tripura and Nagaland are anticipated to grow at a much faster rate than all-India compound annual average rate of 4.86 per cent from 2016-2037, according to the long-term electricity demand forecasting report by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). 

For Jharkhand the compound annual growth rate is 6-7 per cent, according to CEA.

Decentralised renewable energy (DRE) has a potential of more than 17 MW in the health sector based on its standalone nature in the rural locations, according to the analysis by PowerforAll.

Due to low costs in recent years, renewable energy systems have become accessible for the healthcare sector. To cut the emissions due to fossil fuel technologies, DRE offers a way out. 

Being climate-friendly, it has the ability to contribute towards United Nations-mandated sustainable development goals covering poverty alleviation, energy security and other environment targets.

The healthcare and electricity sectors go hand-in-hand. Co-operation between the two is important to make full use of the opportunities offered by renewable energy for the health sector.  

Jharkhand needs to have an action plan for smooth coordination between the sectors. 

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