First EKOenergy user in Uganda: St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor

Solar energy to power the hospital’s daily operations

Consumers have the option to choose EKOenergy worldwide. One method of accessing EKOenergy-labelled electricity involves adding our label to locally-produced solar power. An illustrative case of this is St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor.

The hospital operates in Gulu, Uganda, offering services to the most needy without discrimination based on sex, race, social status, religion or political affiliation. The hospital heavily relies on its own solar energy to power its daily activities. In early 2022, the hospital’s board made the decision to add our ecolabel to their locally produced megawatt-hours, making them the first EKOenergy user in Uganda.

This serves as an additional means for the hospital to highlight their commitment to sustainability and international solidarity. The EKOenergy label not only demonstrates the hospital’s commitment to utilising the most sustainable energy, but also serves as a tool to promote renewable energy beyond its premises.

We spoke to Jacopo Barbieri, the Head of the Technical Department, to delve deeper into this choice and explore other sustainable initiatives implemented at St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor.

Jacopo guided us through the hospital’s transformation, from its beginnings as a small facility founded in 1959 by Piero Corti, an Italian doctor from Milan, and Canadian surgeon Lucille Teasdale, to its current status as a nationally prominent institution — now the second largest hospital in Uganda and the first non-governmental hospital in East Africa.

The introduction of solar power predates Jacopo’s arrival in 2019. It was primarily funded by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano with the aim of reducing the hospital’s energy expenses and enhancing its self-sufficiency, reducing reliance on the national grid. This initiative has led to the installation of 335 kilowatts of solar panels to date. The financial impact on the hospital has been substantial, resulting in monthly energy cost savings of about 35%. These savings have played a crucial role in maintaining the accessibility of health services to patients.

“All the money we can save on operating costs is money that goes to patient care. (…) With the current system we are able to save on average at least 35% of the electricity, which we would otherwise purchase from the national grid. If you consider that on average we have a bill of around $10,000 a month, that means we save around $3,000 a month.”

Jacopo Barbieri

Given these factors, the hospital’s adoption of EKOenergy holds particular significance as it emphasises its commitment to sustainability and facilitated communication with environmentally conscious donors, who play a crucial role in its operations. The EKOenergy label has not only garnered appeal among existing donors but could also be an element for attracting potential new ones.

St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor Hospital further demonstrates its commitment to sustainability through initiatives that extend beyond energy. In our interview, Jacopo elaborated on projects concerning all the internal grids of both the hospital and the residential part connected to it. Other projects include artisanal production of valuable items from local materials, water heating for the kitchens and on-site firewood production, water management through a phyto-purification system, and the efficiency of the existing waste system. Learn more here in the hospital’s sustainability dossier (PDF, 7 pages, Italian).

Projects financed thanks to EKOenergy users make profound impact on local communities

Furthermore, Jacopo shared his thoughts on the transformative effects of projects supported through EKOenergy’s Climate Fund. He emphasised how these projects have enabled the development of technologies, such as solar, in areas that otherwise would not have had access to them, playing a pivotal role in diverse contexts. “Many rural clinics would not exist without solar installations, as the grid, especially in the north of the country, is not particularly developed, although great strides have been made. I think that financing these kinds of projects is essential especially in particular areas such as health or other essential services for the population such as education,” says Jacopo.

In conclusion, the collaboration between EKOenergy and Lacor Hospital exemplifies the ‘act locally while thinking globally’ approach, showcasing how innovation and sustainability can improve access to health services while simultaneously reducing environmental impact. With EKOenergy-labelled solar energy, the hospital continues to play a crucial role in providing high-quality and affordable care to the local community.

Written by Ilaria Vannini
Published: 15 October 2023