June 25, 2024

Holistic Pulse

Healthcare is more important

Healthcare providers face challenges on path to net zero | articles

2 min read

Healthcare providers in many countries are well underway with reducing their Scope 1 and 2 emissions. They are doing this through three primary ways: the procurement of renewable energy, the energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings, and the reduction of their energy consumption.

Increased procurement of renewable energy
This includes the installation of solar panels on rooftops but also pertains to the purchasing of renewable energy. The difficulty of purchasing renewable energy differs greatly per country. Australia’s power grid, for instance, is mostly powered by black coal. This means, aside from installing solar panels, greening energy needs are currently more difficult for Australian healthcare providers than those in countries with a large renewable energy supply, like Norway, for instance.

Energy-efficient refurbishment of buildings
Through modern construction techniques, insulation and other energy efficiency measures a lot of energy can be saved. However, not all buildings can be refurbished before 2050. Hospital buildings have an average lifespan of around 40 years. For hospitals and other in-house care providers like nursing or care homes that are not yet due for replacement before 2050, the challenges to get to an energy-efficient building can be particularly sizeable.

Reducing electricity consumption
Simple ways this can be done are through turning off air treatment when an operating theatre is not in use, or switching off medical devices that are not in use. This is forgotten, more often than you would think: a recent study by Philips and Vanderbilt on the energy use of diagnostic imaging devices, found that 44% to 75% of energy is consumed outside of patient scanning time.

Over the past years, energy consumption as a percentage of total costs for Dutch hospitals has remained remarkably stable at 2% every year, which suggests that energy use could be reduced through the training of personnel. Yet, energy costs are a small percentage of total costs, for comparison: personnel costs make up 50% of total costs on average, which reduces the incentive to offer elaborate training on these matters.

Another complication is that nurses make up the bulk of hospital staff, and they, generally speaking, cannot control the lights and switches on their wards. As hospitals run 24/7 this means that intelligent building controls and temperature settings when operating theatres are not running probably have more priority.

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