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Making the Case for Healthier Energy Use

The healthcare sector is in the midst of significant institutional change: the economics of the industry is forcing mergers and restructuring as systems struggle to remain financially viable. To navigate this difficult environment, industry executives are considering business decisions that improve their institutions, including those that positively impact their financial stability and corporate social responsibility. Energy efficiency is increasingly important to industry decision-makers who recognize the impact it has on the bottom line and the opportunity for economic relief it holds in the midst of an unstable market. 

Transforming the Hospitals and Healthcare Market 

From 2005 to 2014, NEEA’s Hospitals and Healthcare initiative sought to address energy use, and create opportunities for energy efficiency gains in a sector that is complex, heavily regulated, and focused on its core objectives. It succeeded in increasing awareness of energy efficiency, and changing views from energy being a fixed cost to a manageable cost. The successes facilitated by the project not only resulted in cost savings, but also provided a range of other benefits including improved patient comfort and industry recognition for participating health systems. 

The healthcare market holds compelling energy savings potential because of its energy intensive, round-the-clock operations, but industry executives often overlook energy efficiency improvements as energy costs are just a small fraction of annual operating expenses.

Despite this barrier, energy efficiency successes are possible; in the Northwest, notable achievements in healthcare energy efficiency are well-documented, including the construction of the “most energy-efficient hospital in the United States” – Swedish Issaquah, a winner of the 2013 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Technology Award.

Swedish Hospital

A Prescription for Success

Kim Hughes, a Sr. Program Manager at NEEA, recently presented a case study on the Hospitals and Healthcare initiative at the CleanMed Conference. This study examines a decade of market shift efforts to enable industry adoption of energy efficiency practices among Northwest healthcare facilities, including:

  • Energy efficiency messages and business cases that resonate with the healthcare industry. 
  • How to link energy efficiency to an organization’s core mission and values. 
  • The importance of engaging healthcare executives and leveraging their support to access and  engage operations staff. 
  • How to access and garner attention from senior leadership.

Energy is now part of the conversation in healthcare systems. The knowledge, evidence, and relationships gained from this initiative will live on, even as NEEA ends its engagement. Lasting SEM improvements and energy efficiency upgrades in regional healthcare systems, as well as the impact these results create in the national healthcare sector will drive awareness and vision for energy management throughout the entire industry.

Read the full case study for more details.