Sustainability chiefs call for more-decisive action to reduce energy use in the NHS estate
The Government has committed to a net zero NHS by 2040
“As an organisation that spends hundreds of millions of pounds each year on energy, and is experiencing exponential growth in usage, it is crucial for the NHS to explore different approaches to creating sustainable hospital buildings without compromising the quality of patient care.”
This warning, from Kas Mohammed, vice president of digital energy at Schneider Electric UK & Ireland, comes just days after Jonathan Maxwell, chief executive of Sustainable Development Capital (SDCL), urged the government to take decisive action to reduce energy usage in public sector buildings such as the NHS estate.
Maxwell, told City A.M he wanted the Government to drive energy efficiency measures across state-owned buildings, such as directions to turn off the lights at night and managing air condition systems more effectively, alongside boiler upgrades and improved wall insulation.
He argued this would have an instant impact on the UK’s carbon emissions, compared to the more-protracted benefits from new renewable projects.
“Unlike trying to go through the planning cycle for a new power plant, energy efficiency can be done quickly – just weeks in the case of lighting. It’s the pace of doing energy efficiency which is exciting,” he said.
The UK is aiming to reach net zero carbon emissions over the next three decades.
By embracing these technologies, we can transition to condition-based maintenance practices, which not only aid reducing maintenance backlogs, but also contribute to the overall reduction of energy consumption and costs
And SDCL has raised over £1.6billion of investment in energy efficiency.
It operates a portfolio with on-site generation projects such as rooftop solar and green gas for a wide range of buildings from data centres to schools and hospitals and major industrial facilities in high-emission sectors such as steel and chemicals.
“In business, industry, and the public sector, lighting, heating, and, ventilation, air conditioning, and cooling matter.
“Half of the world’s electricity goes through motors, so looking at the building management systems and controls can actually save the waste of energy at the point of use,” he added.
The NHS owns nearly 3,000 properties across the country and makes up 40% of energy consumption in the public sector and around 4% of national energy usage on a year-by-year basis.
And Maxwell noted that the NHS is only a third of the way through its programme of converting older, filament lights to LED systems.
He said: “The level of energy waste associated with that is extraordinary.
“Changing those lights may cost £300m-£400m today, but it will deliver a benefit, I think, of about £1billion over the next 10 years.”
Unlike trying to go through the planning cycle for a new power plant, energy efficiency can be done quickly – just weeks in the case of lighting
The Government has aimed to drive reduction in energy waste across state-owned buildings through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.
It targets an emissions reduction from public sector buildings of 75% by 2037, compared to a 2017 baseline, as set out in the 2021 Net Zero and Heat and Buildings strategies.
The current third phase of funding provides £1.43billion in grants between 2022-2024 through multiple application windows – on top of £1.1billion in overall funding from the first two stages of the scheme.
Responding to the comments, Mohammed told BBH: “The NHS faces a significant challenge when it comes to energy consumption and costs, especially with the constant addition of new medical equipment.
“Over the past few years, it has faced various pressures, which have hindered important maintenance and retrofit projects.
“The shortage of vital skills in technology, energy management, and electrical engineering needed for upgrades to estates has also left contractors struggling to meet demand.”
And he said the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme needed to prioritise the heating and ventilation requirements of NHS hospital trusts.
He added: “These are complex and specific and play a vital critical role in ensuring the comfort and wellbeing of patients.
To manage energy usage effectively, facilities management teams need access to data via systems that can monitor and regulate energy consumption, drive efficiencies, and reduce waste and emissions
“To manage energy usage effectively, facilities management teams need access to data via systems that can monitor and regulate energy consumption, drive efficiencies, and reduce waste and emissions.
“In addition, the implementation of remotely-managed building management systems (BMS) and digital services can greatly support the retrofitting of hospitals, clinics, and other medical and administrative buildings.
“Greater use of software and automation can help address the skills gap and lay the foundations for new working practices when it comes to maintaining, upgrading, and retrofitting buildings.
“By embracing these technologies, we can transition to condition-based maintenance practices, which not only aid reducing maintenance backlogs, but also contribute to the overall reduction of energy consumption and costs.
“By combining these measures, we can make significant strides in making the NHS more sustainable and resilient, aligning with its goal to achieve net zero by 2040.”