Energy efficiency critical to effective Covid-19 vaccine rollout

by Ofentse Sefolo
Energy efficiency critical to effective Covid-19 vaccine rollout

As South Africa prepares for a broad roll-out of the country’s vaccine programme, energy efficiency is one of the factors to consider, according to the South African National Energy Development Institute, (SANEDI).

Energy is crucial to operate cold chains that store vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccination against Covid-19 has a shelf life of up to 2 years if it is stored at -20°C. The J&J vaccination can also be safely stored in a domestic fridge for up to 1 month. The effectiveness of this, depends entirely on an uninterrupted supply of energy to maintain its low storage temperature requirements.

SANEDI’s General Manager responsible for Energy Efficiency, Barry Bredenkamp says, “As the vaccine roll-out extends to the more remote rural areas of the country, it could become harder to sustain an unbroken cold chain in the broader logistical scheme-of-things. If there is an energy outage for whatever reason, freezers and fridges will lose temperature, potentially compromising the vaccine. Which is why we all need to do everything in our power to conserve energy and be as energy efficient as possible, during this trying time.”

Curbing citizen consumption
Bredenkamp urges, “There are various ways South Africans can be mindful of their energy consumption. Heating water is one of the most energy-intensive processes in the home and therefore one of the most expensive. Be sure to set your geyser temperature to 60 degrees. Also, when cooking on electric hobs, match the pan size to the element size, for example a 12cm pan on a 16cm burner will waste more than 40% of the heat. Remember to also insulate ceilings, doors and windows, wherever possible.”

Dr Ashok Sarkar, Senior Energy Specialist Team Leader at the World Bank, recently addressed a World Bank workshop series related to Vaccine Cold-chain Challenges. In his address, he pointed out, “It’s important to find a way to maintain and expand the cold chain for the vaccine in a climate-friendly manner. As the vaccine cold chains are deployed at scale, the potential is enormous for integrating cost-effective energy efficient and solar refrigeration technologies, switching to cleaner refrigerants and adopting other sustainable measures, to achieve the same cooling effect.”

For more information, visit: www.sanedi.org.za.

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