The UK government has set a target to achieve carbon net-zero by 2050, with the NHS striving to be the first national health service in the world to be net zero carbon by 2040.
The climate emergency has the potential to become a health emergency. The changes to our climate threaten the building blocks of good health, with direct and immediate consequences for patients, the public and the NHS. Recent data from the Met Office confirms that 2020 concluded the earth’s warmest 10-year period on record, in 2019 almost 900 people died as a direct result of heatwaves in England alone.
The NHS owns and operates thousands of properties across the UK and has a significant carbon footprint. But finding a route to net-zero emissions for a complex system as large as the NHS is challenging.
The NHS property portfolio
The NHS estate contains in excess of 30,000 properties, meaning it has a significant impact on the country’s carbon emissions. The UK’s healthcare sector spends in excess of £400 million per year on energy, more efficient and effective energy solutions would provide better conditions for patients and staff whilst also saving both money and the environment.
NHS trusts are responsible for the management of numerous aging properties which have often been adapted to serve a purpose for which they weren’t designed meaning that heat and energy are often wasted.
The effects of Covid-19 and COP26
The Covid-19 pandemic has put a monumental strain on NHS resources and energy efficiencies have been far from a priority, but the COP26 summit has refocused minds and put energy efficiency once again top of the agenda. Change is definitely needed, it is, therefore, encouraging that an investment of £3.7bn has been assigned to tackle major rebuilding projects across 40 NHS estates by 2030.
The investment will explore the energy hospitals use for heating, hot water, ventilation, cooling, lighting, and running of equipment. Energy use cannot be stopped in a working hospital, but it can be minimised by efficient design. The key piece of the puzzle is whether the energy required can be supplied from zero-carbon energy sources (either on-site or off-site) – or an investment is made to offset this carbon through equal and additional renewable generation elsewhere. If that can happen then the hospital building can indeed achieve net-zero operational carbon.
Significant modeling and analysis is being undertaken to minimise energy consumption, reduce associated carbon emissions and maintain occupant comfort. This invaluable knowledge must then be put into practice to develop a strategic plan to rebuild, refit, and repurpose the extensive NHS property portfolio.
Reducing NHS energy bills
At first glance, saving the NHS money on its energy bills appears to be an almost impossible task. Energy expenditure and subsequent costs have been steadily increasing for the past decade, in fact, it is estimated that by the end of 2021, trusts could see their energy prices rise by up to 45% compared to 2016 rates.
To date, the NHS has collectively unlocked over £1.8bn in lifetime financial savings through investment in energy efficiency, which is obviously positive for the environment. However, driving down consumption is the most sustainable way to cut energy costs long term.
The quicker the NHS acts to optimise its energy strategies, the greater chance they have to mitigate future energy cost rises.
Energy Technology & Control products have been fitted in numerous NHS sites over the years where large boilers are used to supply steam for things like heating, cooking and autoclaves. If you would like to discuss how innovations from Energy Technology & Control could help your business save energy and reduce costs get in touch.