BOSTON, Mass. – Boston, Massachusetts-area hospitals advanced public health by cutting their energy greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent between 2011 and 2015, and are on track to reduce 33 percent by 2020, according to a new report released by Health Care Without Harm. The report includes data from hospitals serving on the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s Health Care Working Group. Their trajectory delivers a 47 percent reduction in greenhouse gases compared to “business as usual” by 2020.
“Boston hospitals are leading other sectors in the city, and pace-setting the entire healthcare industry, demonstrating they can provide exceptional patient care, protect public health and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm. “These are mission-driven, financially smart strategic commitments to deep energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Paul Lipke, the organization’s senior advisor for Energy & Buildings, who managed the analysis.
With these reductions, Boston healthcare facilities are far exceeding mandated greenhouse gas reduction goals set by the city and Massachusetts, which aim for 25 percent by 2020, working toward 100 percent by 2050. The 47 percent reduction is equivalent to eliminating the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 42,220 passenger vehicles.
Twenty percent of the hospital sector greenhouse gas emission reductions come from significant investments in renewable energy. Partners HealthCare is purchasing low-impact hydropower, and will buy most of its electricity from a new wind turbine farm in New Hampshire, as it works to make its huge healthcare system net carbon positive for all energy by 2025. Boston Medical Center is slashing energy use and neutralizing its electricity emissions through a North Carolina solar energy farm, and expects all its energy to be climate neutral by 2018.
The greenhouse gas reductions come while the hospitals are providing more patient care, doing more energy-intensive medical research, expanding facilities and coping with hotter summers, all of which should have pushed energy use and emissions upward, according to Health Care Without Harm’s report, which analyzed more than 24,000 records covering 22 million square feet of hospitals.
The report identifies areas where Boston hospitals made notable progress between 2011-15 compared to business as usual in energy efficiency, conservation and greenhouse gas reductions, including:
A reduction in total energy use of 9.4 percent
A reduction in electricity use of 1 percent
A reduction in natural gas of 26.1 percent
Generated enough cost savings to cover healthcare for 1,357 Massachusetts Medicare enrollees
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a $15 million cost savings is the equivalent of the hospitals finding $300 million in new revenue every year.
“To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, we need radical changes in how we power, heat and cool our buildings,” said John Cleveland, the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s executive director. “The remarkable achievements of Boston hospitals show this transformation is doable even now. Boston healthcare is setting the pace for our other sectors, other cities and, indeed, the entire country. We hope others rise to this friendly challenge.”