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When are solar refrigerators less costly than on-grid refrigerators: A simulation modeling study.

Abstract

At their current price premium, the annual cost of each solar refrigerator is 132% more than each electric refrigerator at the district level and 241% more at health facilities. Solar refrigerators provided savings over electric refrigerators when one-day electrical outages occurred more than five times per year at either the district level or the health facilities, even when the electric refrigerator holdover time exceeded the duration of the outage. Two-day outages occurring more than three times per year at the district level or more than twice per year at the health facilities also caused solar refrigerators to be cost saving. Lowering the annual cost of a solar refrigerator to 75% more than an electric refrigerator allowed solar refrigerators to be cost saving at either level when one-day outages occurred more than once per year, or when two-day outages occurred more than once per year at the district level or even once per year at the health facilities.

Gavi recommends solar refrigerators for vaccine storage in areas with less than eight hours of electricity per day, and WHO guidelines are more conservative. The question remains: Can solar refrigerators provide value where electrical outages are less frequent?

Using a HERMES-generated computational model of the Mozambique routine immunization supply chain, we simulated the use of solar versus electric mains-powered refrigerators (hereafter referred to as "electric refrigerators") at different locations in the supply chain under various circumstances.

Our study supports WHO and Gavi guidelines. In fact, solar refrigerators may provide savings in total cost per dose administered over electrical refrigerators when electrical outages are less frequent. Our study identified the frequency and duration at which electrical outages need to occur for solar refrigerators to provide savings in total cost per dose administered over electric refrigerators at different solar refrigerator prices.

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