New Alliance Promotes Better Energy Efficiency in Hospitals

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , May 1, 2009

A group of hospitals and healthcare systems took closer steps to becoming greener by joining this week with the U.S. Department of Energy in officially launching the Health Energy Alliance (HEA), a public/private partnership, in Washington.

The partnership is expected to boost the promotion of improved energy efficiency and renewable technologies in hospital design, construction, retrofit, operations, and maintenance.

Under the new alliance, hospitals and healthcare organizations will have access to the resources and technical expertise from the Energy Department and its national laboratories. The goal is to develop and use creative solutions "to cut costs, lower energy usage, and reduce pollution," according to Richard Moorer, the Energy Department's associate undersecretary for energy.

Under the HEA, hospital leaders are being brought together to provide insights into how to improve energy conservation while maintaining quality care for patients, said AHA's President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock in a statement. The HEA was created to "spur energy efficiency and lower costs" in the healthcare sector by quickening the adoption of high-performance technologies—while promoting healthcare delivery.

Members of the initial HEA Steering Committee include representatives from Catholic Healthcare West, Department of Veterans Affairs, Gundersen Lutheran Health System; Hospital Corporation of America, Kaiser Permanente, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Providence Health & Services; TECO/Texas Medical Center; University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE), American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), Global Health and Safety Initiative (GHSI), and Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES). 

The HEA is part of the initiative started last summer called EnergySmart Hospitals.

The goals of EnergySmart Hospitals are:

  • Promote 20% improved efficiency in existing buildings and 30% in new construction over current standards
  • Increase efficient and renewable energy applications in hospitals
  • Reduce energy use and operating costs
  • Create healthier healing and work environments
  • Maximize successful hospital upgrades and design strategies
  • Ensure reliable backup power during disasters
  • Improve environmental performance.

At the EnergySmart hospital Web site, the DOE notes that U.S. hospitals spend more than $5 billion annually on energy, which is equal to 1% to 3% total of their budgets and equivalent to 15% of profits. The DOE estimates that every dollar a nonprofit hospital saves on energy is equivalent to generating new revenue of $20.

The EnergySmart Hospital Web site also informs hospitals and healthcare organizations on how they can use lighting, heating and air conditioning, water efficiency, and energy management to save money. Also, tips are provided as well on how to improve design and construction of hospitals, for instance, by maximizing tree shade, promoting use of natural light, and checking the availability of geothermal energy.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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