Hospitals continuously serve thousands of patients and visitors every year, making them one of the largest energy users in the United States, according to the Energy Information Administration. Overall, U.S. health care facilities account for 9 percent of all commercial energy use.

Large heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems precisely control temperature, humidity and air flow. These systems, along with lighting and water heating, are typically the top energy users in hospitals.

Motivation to improve

Energy conservation potential in health care facilities ranges from 10 percent to more than 30 percent, although cost savings is only one motivation of health care leaders who embrace conservation. Broader goals may be sustainability, public image, patient and employee satisfaction and improved facilities for patient care.

“We’re grateful our leadership cares so much, not only about our patients’ health, but the environment’s health, too,” said Gordon Howie, construction and facilities services regional director at Mayo Clinic Health System in northwest Wisconsin. “Energy management has long been a priority for Mayo Clinic Health System.”

Mayo Clinic Health System, HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital all have benefited from developing energy management plans.

Energy workshops

A unique program available from Xcel Energy helps customers develop a foundation for a sustainable energy management plan. A diagnostic workshop called Envinta One-2-Five, facilitated by Xcel Energy, creates action items to help customers. The Envinta workshop takes customers’ specific needs into account by examining what is being done to manage energy as well as maintenance, operations, energy tracking and budgets.

By participating in the workshop, Chippewa Valley health care providers developed energy management plans and integrated action items into organizational objectives and business activities.

Teamwork

Mayo Clinic Health System, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals have formed energy teams to execute their energy management plans. Management commitment is vital, and health care leadership in the Chippewa Valley overwhelmingly has supported these activities.

The Mayo Clinic Health System energy team regularly meets with hospital leadership to review progress. Results are reported on a sustainability scorecard to track energy conservation and sustainability.

HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals report energy conservation results to the system-wide Green Team. “The energy team has provided a great forum for valuable exchange of ideas between the owners, contractors, energy suppliers and Focus on Energy,” said Roger Elliott, director of plant services at HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Training

Energy team members require a working knowledge of energy use to analyze and recommend energy saving measures. Training may be necessary for team members new to conservation. Only 14 percent of large facility managers rated themselves high in regard to understanding energy efficiency, according to a national study by E Source, an energy user research organization.

Team members with an understanding of energy-use principles become valuable assets of the entire organization. Training options are available from energy providers, local education facilities and professional organizations.

Outside resources, assistance and expertise

Local health care organizations regularly meet with Xcel Energy to review energy and alternative rates and to investigate Focus on Energy conservation incentives. Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency program, works with businesses to install conservation projects and provide information, resources and financial incentives.

Meeting with peers to investigate industry best practices helps hospitals advance their energy conservation knowledge. Xcel Energy has arranged health care peer exchanges to enable this. Mayo Clinic Health System held a tour for members of the Association for Facilities Engineering to share energy conservation experiences with other facility professionals. These activities promote learning and networking.

The Wisconsin Healthcare Engineering Association provides education, advocacy and outreach, and offers resources that can help integrate sustainable practices into the health care environment, including energy conservation. The Chippewa Valley hospitals are WHEA members and actively take advantage of the many resources.

Energy interns

Xcel Energy offers an energy intern program to help customers achieve conservation goals. Customers employ college students as energy interns to help identify, develop and implement conservation projects. Mayo Clinic Health System and HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital have participated in the program.

Interns collect data, track use, investigate conservation measures and organize Focus on Energy incentives. To assist in tracking energy use, MCHS uses a web-based energy metering and monitoring tool. Studies have shown that tracking and trending energy use can result in a 1-5 percent cost savings.

Results

Retro commissioning is often one of the first projects a hospital energy team initiates. Retro commissioning is a process to improve the performance and energy efficiency of building systems and equipment. Specialists examine building systems, controls, lighting, HVAC, maintenance and operational practices.

The process provides quick energy savings. As an example, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital implemented retro commissioning and annually saved 329,188 kilowatt-hours and 33,868 therms.

Building system retrofits offer opportunities for facilities to conserve energy. For example, Mayo Clinic Health System recently completed a parking ramp lighting retrofit expected to annually conserve 365,000 kWhs, and the new lighting system will also reduce maintenance costs. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic Health System’s clinic in Osseo and dialysis center in Menomonie use a geothermal HVAC system, beneficial in energy cost reduction and increased patient comfort.

Year-over-year energy use at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital was 12 percent lower as the result of implementing several conservation projects, including lighting improvements and HVAC system controls. The hospital participated in energy workshops, attended outside training and used an energy intern to assist energy conservation efforts.

Since 2007, Mayo Clinic Health System has reduced its energy use per square foot of space by 31 percent. This significant reduction was accomplished by using sustainable conservation measures and practices, including energy-efficient lighting, heat recovery and food service and laundry improvements.

Local health care leaders recognize the opportunity to realize savings by developing an energy management plan and supporting an energy team. With more than 3,000 large hospitals in the U.S., spending about $9 billion per year on energy, implementing sustainable conservation measures offers vast potential.

Studies have shown that a health care facility with an energy management plan in place can reduce energy use by 10 percent the first year by implementing low-cost and no-cost energy-saving measures. Organizations with a conservation project budget can expect greater savings.

Sustainable conservation practices and purposeful leadership have benefited health care in the Chippewa Valley.

Oscar Brandser is a key account manager at Xcel Energy. He can be reached at 715-737-4621 or oscar.c.brandser@xcelenergy.com.

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