Health Care Outscores Other Industries in Energy Efficiency Study

Health care executives place a higher priority on energy efficiency than executives in other industries, and they are more likely to expect to make improvements over the coming year. Those are the findings of the 2008 Healthcare Energy Efficiency Indicator study, which was commissioned by the American Society for Healthcare Engineering and health care management company Johnson Controls and included a survey of 335 energy decision makers in the health care industry. The research was conducted in March.

A parallel, multi-industry study, the Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator, polled 1,150 North American executives in partnership with the International Facility Management Association. In that study, only 57 percent of respondents called energy efficiency "extremely important" or "very important," compared with 65 percent of health care respondents. ASHE and Johnson said the two studies' results show that health care organizations are consequently more likely than companies in other industries to invest in energy efficiency.

Two thirds (67 percent) of health care organizations reported plans to spend capital on energy efficiency this year, compared to 56 percent in the multi-industry survey. Moreover, the studies showed that health care organizations will tolerate a longer payback period (4.2 years) on energy efficiency projects than other industries (3.6 years).

Survey respondents projected energy price increases of 11 percent this year. On average, health care organizations will spend eight percent of their capital budgets and six percent of their operating budgets to conserve energy over the coming year. Their drive toward energy efficiency is motivated primarily by cost, with 59 percent of respondents saying that the need to control costs is a greater motivator than environmental responsibility.

According to the study, a majority of health care organizations have already invested in efficiency and cost control measures. "It takes a lot of energy to run a hospital," said Dale Woodin, executive director of ASHE. "As health care organizations look for ways to control costs and improve patient care, they are engineering energy efficient solutions that will pay off handsomely in three or four years." Common investments include:

  • Building management systems--installing, updating, or improving (88 percent)
  • Energy-efficient lighting (87 percent)
  • Variable speed/frequency drives (67 percent)
  • Lighting sensors so lights come on and off as needed (56 percent)
  • Adjusting time that heating/AC runs (55 percent)
  • Negotiated energy contracts with suppliers (52 percent)

Other measures revealed by the study to have strong footholds in health care include:

  • Replacing inefficient equipment before the end of its useful life (48 percent)
  • Energy price hedging strategies (35 percent)
  • Energy-saving glass in windows (35 percent)
  • Monitoring consumption more frequently (34 percent)
  • Time clocks to turn lights on/off at specified times (27 percent)
  • White roofs to reduce heat gain (27 percent)
  • Increasing preventive maintenance schedules (26 percent)

The research also showed that health care has not adopted renewable energy technology to the same degree as other industries. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents to the multi-industry study have invested in renewable technologies or have actively considered investing while only 38 percent of health care organizations reported similar interest in renewable energy. Included in this number, 25 percent of health care organizations have looked actively at solar energy, and significant numbers have shown interest in other technologies such as biomass, geothermal, and wind.

"Finding sites for energy generating equipment like solar panels and wind turbines can be a challenge for compact urban hospitals, but it is a challenge that can be overcome," said Don Albinger, vice present of renewable energy, Johnson Controls. "Our job is to educate healthcare leaders about new, creative, and cost effective techniques for incorporating renewable energy in space constrained settings."

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