Getting your health system to net zero emissions will be no easy task. 60-80% of a health system’s emissions come from the supply chain. Clearly systems will need to set new emissions reductions criteria for suppliers and GPOs.
For the other 20-40 of a health system’s emissions – which are those emissions that your health system is directly responsible for – about half come from many different activities: natural gas for heating you buildings and sterilizing instruments, anesthesia gases, emissions from diesel vehicles, gas vehicles, helicopters, waste management and so on. Lots of work here as well. Grinding down these emissions will require hundreds of projects.
The other half of those emissions that you are directly responsible for come from generating your health system’s electricity. About 80% of the electricity in the US is generated by burning natural gas or coal.
We at Healthcare Climate ActionWorks have an approach to bring the emissions from your electricity use down to zero, quickly, and easily, and in a way that generates a net savings for your system. This will give your system a quick win that you can immediately declare. The approach involves three tools: power purchase agreements, renewable energy certificates, a large scale utility able to quickly build new renewable energy farms.
Companies committed to net zero emissions would all like 100% renewable electrons to be flowing into their buildings. But the electrical grid is like a lake with 100 streams flowing in, and 100 flowing out. You can’t take a cup of the water in an outflowing stream and know which inflow it came from. In the same way, it is impossible to tell which electrons floating around the grid are renewable and which ones are not. The only way that you could ensure that every electron going into your buildings is renewable would be to build a wind and solar farm right next to each building, and pipe the electricity in directly. That approach would also require massive battery storage to keep electricity flowing when there is no sun or wind. Simply put – at present that simply is not feasible.
The feasible approach – used by Kaiser Permanente, Google, Amazon, and hundreds of other very large companies is to use power purchase agreements and renewable energy credits. With a power purchase agreement you agree with an electric utility that if they build a new, additive renewable power plant, you will buy all of the electricity generated at a fixed price for 10-20 years. That new, additional, renewable power generation will also provide you with certified renewable energy certificates. These certify that even though the electrons going into your buildings may come from multiple sources, you have bought the renewable electrons needed to power your buildings and have put them into the grid. It certifies that your electricity is green.
A power purchase agreement also typically delivers a net reduction in electricity costs of greater than 10%.
At Healthcare Climate ActionWorks we wanted to find a way to rapidly bring health systems this innovation that eliminates 50% of the emissions that they are directly responsible for, and lowers their electricity costs. Soon we will announce a partnership with a large producer of wind and solar energy, to help health systems with this transition.
Together we are building our first, new renewable energy farm, with enough energy to power up to a dozen health systems.
We are looking forward to announcing soon – and to the work ahead!
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