Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration illustrates that buildings are responsible for almost half of the energy consumed and 38 percent of all GHG emissions in the United States. According to the EPA, inpatient health care 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 percent 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 health care sector contributes approximately eight percent 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 percent 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]
Getting Started on Energy
As energy prices rise and energy security becomes an issue of increasing importance for the health care sector, reining in energy use will be paramount. The challenge is to reduce energy consumption while enhancing patient outcomesand minimizing costs. Health care organizations are finding they can significantly increase energy efficiency—and often without huge capital outlays. Benchmarking energy 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 U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Solution Center are building out the set of tools and resources supporting hospitals in identifying viable, cost-effective strategies to reduce energy use.
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 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
[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