Carbon reduction

Easy wins could make NHS leader in climate change

Five ‘easy wins’ could help NHS trusts to dramatically reduce emissions in line with tough new government guidelines which challenge the public sector to become ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050.

Research published by the Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) campaign and Arup reveals that the NHS produces higher emissions than the global average for the sector, responsible for 5.4% of the UK’s total output.

The costs of energy saving technology

Despite many NHS trusts having already ‘picked the low-hanging fruit’ in terms on energy-efficient interventions, there is still more that can be done, according to experts. 

Centrica Business Solutions, for example, predicts that, though the 15-year term of an average Energy Performance Contract, NHS trusts could collectively save more than £187m a year.

Its Powering Britain’s Public Sector report found that if just half of all NHS trusts updated their energy systems – by deploying technology like combined heat and power (CHP) units, battery storage, and solar panels –a 15% saving could be made on energy bills, enough to pay the salaries of more than 5,800 nurses. 

The adoption of new energy technology would also deliver an annual emissions saving of 450,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, around 9% of the sector’s current carbon footprint.

Simple changes

EDF Energy has also recently published a report which reveals five simple energy-efficiency measures. And, since it is possible for some hospitals to apply all five solutions at once, the total average saving available is £79,197 - equivalent to the cost of 609 MRI scans.

These energy savings would also have a significant environmental impact. They could save 9,365 tonnes of CO2 per year across the 494 sites surveyed, equivalent to the carbon emissions from nearly 5,000 flights between London and Sydney. 

The five focus areas are:

  • Using energy efficient air conditioners could save on average £18,358 per site.

  • Installing occupancy sensors to automate lighting could save £14,514 per site.

  • £25,837 could be saved per site by retrofitting Enhanced Ventilation Controls.

  • Using energy-efficient air conditioners could save £18,359.

  • Optimising operational schedules could save £2,414.

Commenting on the findings, Vincent de Rul, director of energy solutions at EDF Energy, said: “Our data covers a relatively-small proportion of the UK’s hospitals – so imagine what the impact would be if all UK hospitals were able to make even the simplest of changes.”

Removing financial barriers to better energy management

To help health trusts, many energy companies are offering funding options which help to keep upfront expenditure to a minimum.

Salix Finance recently celebrated a significant milestone after achieving £100m worth of committed funding within the NHS to enable savings of more than £24m a year.

The government-funded organisation provides interest-free loans to the public sector to improve energy efficiency. It has supported more than 600 energy reduction projects across 70 NHS trusts in England in the last decade, with future savings of up to £391m expected.

Sameen Khan, NHS programme manager at Salix Finance, said, “Simple measures such as upgrading inefficient heating, lighting and ventilation equipment can provide significant long-term financial and maintenance savings for organisations and help to mitigate against the effects of climate change.”

Tony Orton, head of business development at Centrica, added, “Financing an energy project shouldn’t be a constraint for any NHS trust. There are several options available, ranging from using a trust’s capital budget or a loan from their current bank, to government-backed loan financing or a funding arrangement with an energy supplier. It’s key for them to evaluate which one is right for them.” 

Related Stories
Grasping the opportunities
NHS trusts are being urged to invest in the latest energy-saving technologies to meet tough carbon reduction targets
Energy upgrades can save the NHS billions
The NHS could unlock savings of £187m a year by upgrading outdated energy systems, according to new research by Centrica Business Solutions. The saving amounts to £2.8bn over a typical 1- year energy contract.