Hospitals depend on energy to run their services, operate critical equipment and save lives. It's a vital operation but also an expensive one.
In England, the NHS spends £500 million a year on energy1 – making healthcare one of the nation's highest energy consuming industries.
Over £50 million is also spent on carbon permits2 as part of the EU emissions trading scheme. This is because the NHS produces 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year2 – 4% of the 'UK's total carbon footprint3.That's more than the annual passenger aircraft emissions departing Heathrow Airport4.
BSI sets out its paper to support those in a hospital environment overcome the challenges of energy management and contribute to the UN's SDG7 to improve energy use and overall environmental performance - therefore being a movement towards affordable and clean energy.
Why do hospitals use so much energy?
Unlike many other industries, hospitals operate 24 hours a day. Everything is constantly running with lots of power-hungry medical equipment. Recent pressure on the NHS during the Covid-19 pandemic has added to this demand.
As a result, hospitals use up to 2.5 times more energy than other industries5. The biggest energy drains are heating, ventilation and lighting with electricity accounting for over 50% of a hospital's energy costs6.
How can hospitals manage and reduce their energy use?
Given the environmental impact, rising fuel costs and legally binding net zero commitments, there's an urgent need for hospitals to reduce their energy load.
Upgrading a hospital's power draining equipment is an effective way to cut energy use. Many 'UK' hospitals are old buildings with poor insulation. Replacing their outdated infrastructure can reduce their energy use by up to 25%1. For example, installing energy-efficient windows and using empty roof space for solar-generated electricity.
Small steps light the way
Many hospitals have tight budgets so low-cost energy reduction strategies are particularly helpful. Lighting accounts for 16% of hospitals' energy costs7 so simple measures such as turning off lights, using occupancy sensors, timers and dimmers are effective in reducing energy use. And by switching to more energy-efficient LED bulbs, the NHS can save £3 billion over the next three decades3. To achieve this goal, the Government has committed to a £50 million LED lighting replacement programme.
Other energy-saving strategies include regular maintenance. HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) units are vital in maintaining air temperature and filtration but account for more than 30% of a hospital's energy use7. Regularly cleaning debris from their coils, filters and fans helps reduce their running costs and optimises performance.
Many NHS trusts are now installing more efficient technologies to reduce their energy use and carbon load. For example:
- The Royal Manchester Children's Hospital has invested in a renewable energy project - saving £80,000 in energy costs and 380 tonnes of carbon
- The Wye Valley NHS Trust is installing low-energy lights, 300 roof solar panels, a ground heat pump network and pipe insulation lagging to reduce heat loss. The upgrades will cut the trust's annual energy bill by £75,000 - £100,000 and reduce carbon emissions by 510 tonnes
- The North Devon Healthcare NHS Trust is set to save an annual £570,000 with the installation of a combined heat and power engine, upgrades to its compressors and pumps, and solar panel installation.
The huge energy consumption of our hospitals is a concern due to both the rising costs and the impact on the environment. While hospitals save lives, they're also damaging our planet.
Although some progress is evident with an 82% reduction in carbon footprint since 1990, the challenge remains. In response, the Government has introduced the NHS Carbon Zero Initiative. This aims to achieve a zero-carbon output by 2040 with an 80% reduction by 2028-20323.
Using standards to support hospitals' energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint
To support hospitals in managing their energy use and reducing their impact on the environment, it's helpful to have a set of standards.
Standards are an agreed way of doing things. They offer hospitals a set of powerful tools to help them perform better, reduce their risk and become more sustainable.
The ISO 50001 energy management standard helps hospitals monitor their energy use and identify how they can become more efficient. It also ensures they meet the 'UK" Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) mandatory compliance for energy audits.
Hospitals can be supported in making their systems, controls and practices more sustainable by using ISO 14001 environmental management standard. This provides guidance on reducing the impact of their operational activities on the environment.
With the 'UK' Government's introduction of the NHS Carbon Zero Initiative3, hospitals will need to show they are reducing their carbon emissions and meeting required targets. BSI provides verification for hospitals to meet the international standard PAS 2060 for carbon neutrality.
Working together: How BSI standards contribute to NHS energy use guidance
The 'Health Technical Memorandum 07-02: EnCO2de 2015 - making energy work in healthcare' outlines best practice for energy use in hospitals8. Its six-step approach mirrors the strategies of the ISO 14001 and 50001 standards on environmental and energy management respectively.
The NHS guidance requires hospitals to have an energy and carbon management policy. The ISO 50001 standard provides helpful information on both developing an energy management policy and setting targets to meet its requirements.
A useful tool to monitor energy efficiency is an environmental management system (EMS). This helps hospitals reduce their energy use, lower costs, and improve their environmental impact.
The ISO 14001 standard outlines how to set up an effective EMS and is used by hospital trusts. The South London and Maudsley NHS Trust developed an EMS to manage its impact on the environment9.The trust sought independent assurance from BSI who awarded them both ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 compliance. And in Wales, the NHS has set targets for all its Health Boards and Trusts to achieve ISO 14001 certification. Other relevant standards can be applied to support and improve multiple management areas of a hospital. See our infographic here.
Improving energy efficiency and environmental management practices in our hospitals leads to a healthier and more sustainable NHS. It also saves money which is better spent on patient care. By using standards to support our hospitals, they can reduce their energy use, cut costs and ultimately protect the environment.