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CHARGE partnership helps health centers transition to clean energy, boost climate resilience

Environment, Health, Social Investment Practice

With severe weather projected to worsen in the coming years, the need for reliable clean energy across our nation’s health infrastructure is more important than ever.

However, our nation’s utility grid is underfunded, inefficient and aging. Increasing temperatures and climate-driven natural disasters are leading to more regular and longer lasting outages.

Lack of reliable power has direct health consequences for everyone, but especially for people living in low-income and vulnerable communities.

Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are at the front lines providing comprehensive quality primary health care services to people with low incomes and serving as critical first responders during and after disasters.

Without electricity, health facilities are unable to serve their patients: life-saving refrigerated medicines go bad, health records are inaccessible and medical equipment is useless.

Solar generation and battery storage systems allow health centers to provide vital services during power outages, reduce operating costs and pollution and support capacity in historically disinvested communities that are disproportionately burdened by climate change.

“After a heat wave, wildfire, hurricane or other natural disaster, electrical grid outages are an enormous obstacle to overcome. Extended power outages can often be more deadly than the initial disaster. Unfortunately, outages don’t affect everyone equally – the populations FQHCs serve are often hit first and worst. Fortunately, there is a solution. Microgrids can keep the power on at these essential health facilities to ensure continuity of care, plus save them money and reduce reliance on fossil fuels,” Capital Link CEO Becky Regan said.

Clean, Reliable, Affordable Power for Health

With support from The Kresge Foundation, the Community Health Access to Resilient Green Energy (CHARGE) partnership formed as a nationwide resilient and clean energy program for Federally Qualified Health Centers motivated by the urgent need to tackle issues at the intersection of health equity, climate change, environmental justice, and financial and operational resiliency.

CHARGE is a partnership between three mission-oriented organizations committed to helping FQHCs transition to clean, resilient, and affordable energy. Together, the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), Capital Link, and Collective Energy offers education, assessment, design, installation and financing options to make clean and reliable energy easy and affordable for health centers.

Let's stay in touch Sign up for our newsletters SubscribeCHARGE then helps install cleaner, more reliable, more affordable power, allowing FQHCs to focus on providing quality care for their patients without the fear of power outages.

By educating health centers about their energy options, designing innovative power solutions based on site-specific needs, offering low-cost funding only available to nonprofits, and installing solar + storage systems with trusted partners, the CHARGE partnership helps to ensure that critical facilities have the power to operate during grid outages, reduce their impact on the planet and save money year after year.

“We know how busy the teams at FQHCs are, so we created a partnership to take the stress off them. We make microgrids simple to understand, easy to finance and painless to install. We handle the process start to finish, letting health center staff focus on caring for their patients while bringing their communities the long-term benefits of clean, reliable energy,” Collective Energy CEO Andrew MacCalla said.

How it Works

To promote clean, reliable energy for community health centers, steps include:

  1. Partner: Team up with companies, foundations, and nonprofits that support FQHCs, health and clean energy.
  2. Educate: Offer resources to health centers interested in learning about the solar + storage options available.
  3. Develop: Evaluate site(s) and health center needs, then design, install, commission and maintain solar + storage.
  4. Finance: Stack non-traditional, affordable funding from foundations, impact investors and more.
  5. Turn Over: Transfer ownership of the system(s) as soon as possible to pass maximum savings to the health center(s).

“Health centers are already on the front lines helping our most vulnerable communities respond to climate-related disasters. CHARGE puts them at the forefront of climate mitigation and resilience – keeping them up and operational when communities need them during times of crisis,” Ben Money, senior vice president for population health at the National Association of Community Health Centers said.

Where it’s Happening

In New Orleans, CrescentCare Community Health Center lost more than $250,000 in medicines and vaccines because its gas-powered generators failed after Hurricane Ida hit the city in 2021.

To help prevent the same situation from happening again in the future, the health center, with a $650,000 grant from Direct Relief, took steps to become a resilience hub to mitigate the effects of climate change-related natural disasters.

Installing solar panels and backup batteries helps the center maintain service delivery and access for vulnerable patients in the community. In addition, reducing the health center’s carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions improves air quality for everyone.

And with lower utility bills, paired with tax incentives and credits for installing solar + storage, CrescentCare also expects significant cost savings.

Planned power shutdowns in Fillmore, California, have caused the temporary closure of Clinicas Del Camino Real’s facilities, routinely forcing the health center – which serves more than 100,000 patients – to cancel appointments and send home staff, resulting in lost patient revenues and patients’ temporary inability to access records and care.

The health center installed a 30 kilowatt photovoltaic array with a 30 kilowatt/81 kilowatt hour battery, sufficient to power the full building for four hours during an outage. By financing the solar system with a Power Purchase Agreement and the battery through the California Public Utilities Commission Self-Generation Incentive Program, Clinicas Del Camino Real paid no upfront installation costs and started saving money on its electric bill right away. In its first year, the system produced 46 megawatt hours of power and offset 72,000 pounds of CO2, the equivalent of 544 trees planted in a year. Moreover, the health center has been able to keep the lights on – and continue providing care to patients – even when the grid goes down.

To learn more about how climate change impacts patient health or the importance of resiliency energy systems visit

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