Renewable energy: ready and reliable
The lights are always on at healthcare facilities. Events like births, sudden illness, and injuries occur regardless of the hour of the day or the weather outside. Even power interruptions must not interrupt care. At any hour and any facility that provides healthcare, energy needs can be substantial.
The need is greatest where inpatient care is provided. Hospitals use 8% of all domestic energy, making them the second-most energy-intensive commercial buildings in the U.S. They require more than twice the energy per square foot than offices, schools, and retail.
A crisis makes landfall
During and after a major storm, healthcare service delivery requires even more electricity. Each person admitted to a medical facility places another life in the care of hospital staff, equipment, and the electricity powering that equipment. Regardless of the catastrophic event, life support devices and medication storage can have no downtime.
Electricity is a 1%- 3% budget line item as well as an essential utility. Each year, hospitals spend over $5 billion on energy. Providing 24/7/365 service delivery requires a cost-effective, storm-proof power source.
Growing need is forecasted
In recent years, extreme storms and greater numbers of storms have placed further demands on healthcare service delivery. Atlantic storms rapidly intensify. 70 mph wind increases within 24 hours were formerly predicted to occur once per century. By 2100, they could happen once every five to ten years.
Zero-cost best practices and investments of all sizes can reduce the risks of power outages and cost increases.
The EPA reports that 4,939 hospital properties have used its free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager as of November 2018. Another government agency, the Department of Energy (DOE), studied ways health care facilities could monitor use. The DOE report, issued through the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, can help to set priorities and scope for metering and energy audit projects.
HVAC systems consume roughly one-third of all hospital energy. Bi-annual tune-ups and consistent power monitoring have the potential to bring immediate Return On Investment (ROI).
Withstanding the storms
The inclusion of cost and availability risk reduction in ROI calculations may justify renewable energy installations. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, the VA Hospital’s solar system remained undamaged after 180-mph winds. Because the system could flex under stress, stored sunlight powered lifesaving services in an unprecedented crisis.
Investments in renewables can be preventative medicine. 4,130 premature deaths, 3,750 hospital visit incidents, and 85,000 asthma attacks could be averted if the U.S. healthcare sector reduced their fossil-fueled emissions 30% by 2030. That would save about $1.2 billion in medical expense.