09/03/14 :

Saving Energy and Saving Lives

Hospitals can save money through increased energy efficiency.

Most of us can agree that money invested in hospitals is money well spent, and most would also agree that healthcare facilities should take advantage of any opportunities to cut down on operational costs without sacrificing patient care. That very opportunity exists when it comes to energy use.

Depending on size and location of the facility, a hospital’s annual energy bill can vary from $1 - 3 million each year, and healthcare facilities across the country spend $8.8 billion each year on energy. Fortunately, even small tweaks to increase efficiency can result in substantial savings on the facilities’ energy bills and energy usage.

Current Efforts

Energy is essential for the day-to-day functioning of all facilities, and hospitals are no exception. According to a Schneider Electric report, 25% of hospital operating costs are energy related, accounting for 4% of total energy use in the U.S. However, there is a $20 return on investment for every dollar of energy saved.

There are already some great success stories out there. Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut identified the cost cutting potential of improved energy efficiency and implemented a deep energy retrofit. The facility has reduced its energy consumption by 35 percent and now saves over $300,000 each year on electricity costs. In 2012, the Alliance honored Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus with an EE Global Visionary Award for creating a five-year plan to boost efficiency, alternative transportation, renewable energy and more. Once the Buffalo plan has been fully implemented, there will be increased awareness of the importance of efficiency (up to 12,000 people will be involved in community-based programs) and $10-50 million will be saved in parking infrastructure through greater use of alternative transportation. 

Extensive retrofits and long-term plans are effective, but smaller changes can still result in significant savings. For instance, improving the efficiency of a motor in an HVAC system by just 1 percent can reduce hospital energy use by 5,000 kWh annually. Simple changes in fan systems, ventilation and lighting reduce electricity bills and provide extra funds for patient care.

What’s Next?

ENERGY STAR offers tools and resources to help hospitals and other organizations take steps to reduce energy usage, and in turn the EPA program recognizes these efforts. Businesses or organizations that meet a certain set of requirements for a portfolio of buildings, such as energy use reductions of 10 – 30 percent or more, are honored as ENERGY STAR Leaders.

Sectors from education to real estate are recognized; but of the hundreds of leaders, only two fall under the category of Healthcare & Senior Care Facilities. There are certainly many more hospitals and other facilities that are working to reduce energy use outside of those recognized by ENERGY STAR, but this small percentage indicates that there is room for improvement in energy efficiency efforts.

With such clear benefits for the bottom line of the healthcare industry, it shouldn’t be long before more hospitals begin the process of upgrading their facilities for greater efficiency. As these facilities begin to save more energy, resources historically put toward the energy bill can be utilized to save more lives.