Reducing food waste and vaccine spoilage through cooling solutions

The need for clean and efficient cooling

As global temperatures rise, more people will require access to cooling. For many, cooling is not only a comfort, but also a means of survival as air conditioning and refrigeration are necessary for habitable living conditions, life-saving healthcare, and food security.

Nonetheless, according to the International Energy Agency, the average efficiency of cooling systems sold today consumes around two to three times the amount of energy as efficient options available and often contains refrigerant gasses that are harmful to the environment. This has become an even greater problem in African countries that, according to Thomson Reuters Foundation, have become a dumping ground for cheap, illegal imports of polluting, energy-consuming and short-lasting second-hand equipments from Europe.

Over the past decade, the demand for cooling systems has doubled or even tripled in some African countries, and it is expected to increase 10-fold in the next 20 years. This rising demand makes access to cooling a fundamental and growing social and environmental challenge.

Although climate-friendly cooling technology is available, it has not been deployed at the pace needed due to various market barriers, including up-front costs, uncertain returns, lack of maintenance skills and limited financing options.

CaaS makes efficient cooling more accessible for all

In past two years, BASE has been working to mainstream Cooling as a Service (CaaS) around the world. CaaS is an innovative business model that enables customers to base their decision on lifecycle cost rather than on the purchase price of cooling equipment. The model aims to help people access to energy efficient cooling technologies without an upfront investment.

With CaaS, end customers only pay for the cooling they receive, rather than the physical cooling equipment. The technology provider installs and maintains the cooling equipment and recovers the costs by periodic payments from the customer. These payments are fixed-cost-per-unit for the cooling service delivered (for example, dollars per tons of refrigeration, or units of cooled air). The technology provider also pays for the electricity consumed by the equipment. This serves as an incentive to install equipment that is energy-efficient and that receives high-quality maintenance.

BASE launched the CaaS Incubator initiative in January 2020 with the aim to support five technology providers from around the world in implementing CaaS projects. In Nigeria, BASE is working with Koolboks, one of the five winners selected for the CaaS Incubator programme, on two of their ground-breaking projects. The projects aim to provide high-tech, energy-efficient, solar-powered freezers and refrigerators to local businesses and healthcare facilities.

CaaS to reduce food waste in the markets of Lagos

According to the United Nations, one-third of food produced globally is lost or wasted. In developing countries, 40 per cent of food produced is wasted before it even reaches the market, mostly due to a lack of proper refrigeration and cold chain. Once the food arrives in the market, markets, traders can spend up to NGN 1000 (equivalent to USD 2.50) per day running their diesel generators for their cooling system. Bringing off-grid refrigeration to farmers and traders can increase their income by an estimated 50 per cent, while reducing harvest wastage to below 5 per cent.

BASE and Koolboks are working to provide solar-powered refrigerators and freezers to ensure fresh produce for traders in the markets of Lagos. The pilot is starting in the Ijora fish market, which is the largest fish market in Lagos State and one of the largest in the country. The aim of the project is to eliminate the challenges of erratic power supply in cold-food storage. This will enable traders, 80 per cent of which are women, to reduce food waste and avoid using diesel generators, while simultaneously increasing their revenues. BASE and Koolboks’ developed a ‘Cooling as a Service’ (CaaS) contract that enables traders to access cooling technology without a large upfront payment.

CaaS to fight vaccine spoilage in Delta State

Cooling is also crucial for the healthcare sector. Besides the demand of cooling for patients, hospitals face a challenge to provide safe cold storage for vaccines and medical supplies. Many healthcare facilities do not have the resources to store vaccines due to unreliable energy supplies. This leads to the spoilage of around 25 per cent of vaccines. Moreover, data from Health Affairs suggests that 55 percent more vaccine storage capacity is needed in Nigeria. A safe storage solution for medical supplies has become exceptionally important as the world combats and recovers from a global pandemic.

BASE and Koolboks are working together to provide vaccine refrigeration storage for all 25 Delta-state health care facilities. Having Koolboks’s solar-powered systems in place will ensure vaccines are stored correctly, with a secure source of energy and reliable maintenance.

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