The NHS is a powerhouse in this country. It has become a paragon of the healthcare industry, with trusts up and down the country. As with any industry however, the government has set carbon targets to be met. The NHS has two major deadlines, 2020 and 2050. These deadlines will act as a benchmark, ensuring that the UK reaches its obligations to the Paris Agreement.
The carbon footprint for NHS England has risen to 21 million tonnes per year. This is larger than some medium sized countries and has increased by three million tonnes since the previous footprint was calculated.
This is primarily due to an increase in the growth in NHS services but also because in line with latest conventions we now include other greenhouse gases in our calculations, rather than just carbon dioxide. This is expressed as CO2 equivalent or CO2e.
The NHS must meet these deadlines. Each independent trust has been tasked with ensuring they meet their share of the quota. However, with the purse strings tighter than ever before, is it possible for the NHS to cut down on their emissions without haemorrhaging money?
One way of reducing your carbon footprint is installing a more efficient boiler. Combined Heat and Power boilers (CHP for short) are one the most popular options available and will certainly help NHS trusts meet their targets. The savings shown are indicated by the number 5 on the below graphs. It should be noted that, although this may help the NHS meet the 2020 goal, it is not enough to reach the 2050 benchmark. We need to consider the long term impacts of poor infrastructure. What about those windows that are old, damaged, broken or single glazed? What about the plumbing system that has not been updated properly since the 1950s? What about the long term efficiency of that new boiler system? Everything has a shelf life, how long is this boiler’s?
“The NHS can save at least £180 million per year by reducing its carbon emissions.”
There are so many ways for these trusts to save energy, but this needs to occur through a long term strategy, not just independent, quick fixes. Changes need to be part of an overarching plan. Energy systems optimisation can ensure that your existing system has a longer shelf life. The use of magnetic collars can improve the efficiency of your fuel combustion, decrease your emissions and cut down costs. There is also the option of installing a biomass boiler. These boilers run off of biomass, typically wood. Wood pellets are seen as the most efficient as well as the most sustainable. For every tree is harvested, another tree can be planted. This forms a natural carbon cycle that means there is a zero percent increase, because the CO2 emitted by the burning of wood is absorbed by the trees planted to take over. Wood also does not emit the same amount of greenhouse gasses as oil or coal.
Photo Credit (CO2e Reduction Potential for NHS England)
The above photo comes from a report showing the carbon reduction potential of the NHS through various means. Using Low or Zero carbon technologies is not to be dismissed. By reducing the building energy use by 25%, the reduction on the 2020 baseline will be 6%. That is a 6% decrease in carbon emissions, a change made by simply changing the buildings energy usage to a greener option.
Making the fuel that burns inside your systems more efficient is an excellent way of ensuring that your fuel economy is better, that you are adding life to your system and that you are helping the environment. However, all of this is in vain if your building is not properly insulated. Ensuring that all of your windows are double or triple-glazed can help cut down the need for heating, as can ensuring minimal heat loss through pipes by wrapping them in insulation. The latter also helps make any exposed pipes safer by reducing the risk of burns and scalding.
Energy efficient lighting is another excellent way of ensuring quality yet reducing emissions. The use of LEDs in lighting has lead to marvellous innovations. As LEDs require a significantly small amount of power to use, they provide a bright instant light that can last for many thousands of hours more than conventional bulbs or even energy saving bulbs. LEDs are also typically brighter, so less of them are needed. This means less power, fewer emissions and better costs.
These are some of the many ways that the NHS trusts can achieve their quota quickly, without copious amount of investment or maintenance costs. They can keep their targets for both 2020 and 2050. The savings depicted in the first graph are motivating and should convince many to invest in green technologies. Any improvements made should have an ROI consideration. Some trusts may implement certain improvements simply because they are a popular choice, but what good is it to make a change that will take more than five years to pay back? Furthermore, will any changes last longer than the given targets of 2020 and 2050?
It is clear that NHS trusts need to take action so that they can meet their quotas. They must meticulously consider their options and think of the long term results.