Energy, Water & Climate
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration illustrates that buildings are responsible for almost half of the energy consumed and 38% of all GHG emissions in the United States. According to the EPA, inpatient healthcare ranks as the second largest commercial energy user after the food service industry. The US Department of Energy notes that hospital energy costs rose 56 percent from $3.89 per square foot in 2003 to $6.07 per square foot in 2008, and predicts those costs will continue to rise in the near term[i]. Hospitals are also often the largest water users in the communities they serve. Currently, about 8% of U.S. energy demand is used to treat, pump, and heat water.[ii] And a recent research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimated the healthcare sector contributes approximately 8% of the US’s greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change[iii].
The current infrastructure that delivers energy and water to hospitals relies heavily on fossil fuels – with nearly 90% of the United States’ energy derived from fossil fuels that emit such toxins as mercury, arsenic and greenhouse gases, as well as particulate matter such as NOx and SOx. Consequently, these byproducts negatively affect human health through the air we breathe and the water we drink, and have been linked to premature mortality, chronic bronchitis, asthma attacks and various respiratory symptoms[iv]. Climate change has also been linked to a host of impacts on public health. A 2009 study in The Lancet suggests that climate change will have severe impacts on human health including changing patterns of disease and mortality, extreme events, food, water, shelter, and population.[v]
Greenhealth Energy Alliance
The nature of their operations and buildings puts the health care sector at the forefront of this effort. We’re here to help.
The Greenhealth Energy Alliance will offer state-of-the-art energy solutions to facility members from reliable and responsive companies. Whether your goal is to incorporate alternative energy sources—such as solar, wind, or geothermal—or to reduce your overall energy consumption throughout your facility or health care system, our Energy Alliance will have the right company to meet your energy needs.
Getting Started on Energy, Water & Climate Change
As energy prices rise and energy security becomes an issue of increasing importance for the healthcare sector, reining in energy use will be paramount. The challenge is to reduce energy and water consumption while enhancing patient outcomesand minimizing costs. Healthcare organizations are finding they can significantly increase energy and water efficiency—and often without huge capital outlays. Benchmarking energy and water use, and even greenhouse gas emissions through programs such as EnergyStar with its Portfolio Manager tool is proving critical to having a good understanding of inefficiencies and a viable set of strategies to address those inefficiencies. And new initiatives such as the Hospital Energy Alliance and EPA’s WaterSense are building out the set of tools and resources supporting hospitals in identifying viable, cost-effective strategies to reduce energy and water use.
More hospitals are also beginning to explore the use of renewable energy as a mechanism to reduce their environmental footprint—with Practice Greenhealth member Gundersen Lutheran committing to be 100% energy independent by 2014. And with the first new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, hospitals are finding a growing need to track and assess their greenhouse gas emissions and develop mitigation strategies—ahead of the regulatory curve.
Learn more about how your organization can minimize its energy and water use and address its carbon footprint:
- Tracking and Measuring Energy Use
- Best Practices in Energy Efficiency
- Transportation Operations
- Renewable Energy
- Energy Impact Calculator
- Healthcare Clean Energy Exchange
- What is Climate Change?
- Tracking and Measuring Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
- Best Practices in Carbon Mitigation
- Emerging Regulatory Oversight on Climate Change
[i] U.S. Department of Energy: “Energy Efficiency and Your Hospital’s Bottom Line;” http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/energysmarthospitals/bottom_line.html
[ii]Reed, Clark. Saving Water Counts in Energy Efficiency. EnergyStar. Available at: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=healthcare.ashe_sept_oct_2005
[iii]Chung, JW. And Meltzer, DO. Estimate of the Carbon Footprint
of the US Health Care Sector. Journal of the American Medical Association. November 11, 2009—Vol 302, No. 18.
[iv]U.S. Department of Energy; Commercial Building Energy Alliances; http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/alliances/hospital_ energy_alliance.html