Energy

Reduce energy consumption while enhancing patient outcomes and minimizing costs.

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Cutting energy costs and reducing energy consumption are some of the first places that our member hospitals seek to reduce their environmental impact and improve sustainability practices. There are many reasons energy is and should be an area of focus:  

  • Inpatient health care is ranked by EPA as the second largest commercial energy user in the United States.
  • Hospital energy costs have been on the rise for 15 years, doubling from 2003 to 2008.
  • Health care’s tremendous energy footprint encompasses 8 percent of all U.S. energy consumption and generates about eight percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

The challenge for health care systems is to reduce energy consumption while enhancing patient outcomes and minimizing costs. This isn’t an impossible goal: Practice Greenhealth member organizations have found that they can significantly increase energy efficiency without huge capital outlays, using a variety of strategies.

Hackensack University Medical Center embarked on a two-phase energy conservation project that when complete will result in annual utility cost savings of $1.06 million.

Practice Greenhealth has cultivated resources and created tools to help our members identify and address their energy usage step-by-step.

Step 1: Tracking, measuring, and benchmarking current energy use

Accurate energy tracking tools help hospitals identify underperforming buildings, verify the effectiveness of any efficiency efforts, and identify opportunities to improve. 

Step 2: Setting goals for energy reduction

Key areas of inefficiency and promising energy reduction strategies within the institution’s available financial resources are identified. There are a host of governmental agency tools to help with energy goal-setting. Practice Greenhealth experts frequently guide members through the process to identify the materials that will be most useful. You can also start with the goals established in the leaner energy challenge. Additional recommended reading: 

Step 3: Implementing reduction practices

Energy reduction practices fall into two major categories:

  • Demand-side management: Using tactics such as retro-commissioning, lighting modifications, supplemental load reduction for HVAC systems, “rightsizing” air distribution systems, and heating and cooling upgrades to reduce the need for energy through system-wide energy conservation. 
  • Supply-side management: Replacing conventional energy with clean, renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectric, and other renewable sources to reduce reliance on fossil fuel combustion for energy. 

Practice Greenhealth has expertise and experience in helping our member hospitals investigate both demand- and supply-side management strategies. Utilizing Strategic Energy Master Plans (SEMPs) assembled by hospitals is an important step. Organizations like Partners HealthCare in Boston, Massachusetts have used a SEMP to help mitigate annual price increases of 1.5 percent in 2008 by identifying a reduction goal, increasing efficiency, and a host of other measures including implementing renewable energy. 

Additionally, we can help identify sources of energy efficiency financing and point the way for health care systems to access renewable energy using power purchase agreements (PPAs) and renewable energy certificates (RECs). These programs can help overcome barriers like finances or limited infrastructure and may be a viable option enabling a hospital facility to claim off-site renewable energy generation. Renewable energy certificates can be used to support the generation of wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact hydroelectric power. One REC is issued for each megawatt-hour unit of renewable electricity produced and there’s a process to track this generation through verified platforms. 

Step 4: Reporting and analyzing impacts

Practice Greenhealth generates a Sustainability Benchmark Report every year to track sustainability efforts and evidence-based programs. The data from our members drive the Environmental Excellence Awards, which recognize hospitals and health systems for leadership in sustainability best practices in areas including leaner energy. The dataset from the Practice Greenhealth network is invaluable and can guide hospitals to set targets. For example, in the 2017 benchmark report, the average energy intensity (EUI) score was 244. An EUI score is a measure of a facility’s electrical and gas usage over a 12-month period. Seventy percent of Practice Greenhealth award winners have a written plan to reduce energy with timelines and goals, and the energy savings per facility was nearly $54,000. The resource “When leaders say “yes” to energy” demonstrates how our members can be in the top percentile of energy efficiency while also having positive human health impacts.  

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