British health system switch to CHP could save £180m a year

The British National Health Service (NHS) is in line to make significant savings if it opts to further embrace combined heat and power technology for its buildings.

The UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) says the NHS can achieve the largest carbon and cost savings in building energy use by installing combined heat and power (CHP) in acute trusts.

In its new 'NHS and Sustainability' report to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, the NAO estimates that the NHS could save £180 million ($266 million) a year by reducing carbon emissions. This would pay for approximately 7,750 registered nurses.

CHP has been adopted by many trusts and has been championed by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and the Carbon and Energy Fund, which have worked with trusts and private sector CHP providers to decarbonise energy infrastructure across the NHS estate.

Among those proving the case for CHP is the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, which installed CHP at two of its acute hospital sites.

Birmingham Heartlands Hospital and Solihull Hospital have since achieved 23,151 tonnes of carbon savings.
Solihull hospital
The trust's transition to low carbon heat and power, together with the wider refurbishment of its electricity, heating and cooling infrastructure, is also achieving energy and operational cost savings of nearly £1.6 million per year.

Chris Marsland, Technical Director for ENER-G Combined Power, a company highly industrious in the sector, said: “In acute hospitals, where there is a 24/7 heat demand, CHP is the perfect fit and the savings really stack up, especially when you factor in the operational savings of replacing and maintaining ageing boilers. I’m pleased to see the NAO recognising the great benefits CHP can bring to the hospital estate and the opportunities it gives trusts to focus scarce resources on patients.”

According to the NHS Sustainable Development Unit, the NHS currently consumes 11,732 GWh of power every year and accounts for 3% of the total UK carbon footprint. The 2014 Sustainable Development Strategy set a target for a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the health and social care system by 2020, compared to the 1990 baseline.

In 2012, the NHS footprint was 6% below the baseline, which means that a 4% reduction is required per year from 2013 to 20120. CHP has an ambitious role to play in achieving the necessary quick win carbon savings to work towards this ambitious target.

The NAO report will inform an Environmental Audit Committee inquiry.

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