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Our Turn: New Hampshire hospitals invest in wiser energy, cleaner air

  • Energy conservation efforts at the state's hospitals help avert damage to New Hampshire’s ecosystem and prevent the worsening effects of climate change. AP

Published: 8/17/2016 12:15:18 AM

All across the Granite State, hospitals are committed to the health and well-being of our patients and communities. Each day our hospitals treat not only thousands of patients, but also work to prevent illness by reducing pollution from energy use, which contributes to chronic bronchitis, asthma attacks and even premature death.

Our energy conservation efforts also help avert damage to New Hampshire’s ecosystem and prevent the worsening effects of climate change. The University of New Hampshire study “Climate Change and Human Health in New Hampshire” demonstrated that we in New Hampshire are already experiencing harmful impacts of climate change that could lead to severe negative health outcomes, including

• extreme weather events (e.g., precipitation, flooding) with the potential for injury/death;

• change in temperature and air quality leading to increases in respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses;

• rise of vector and food borne disease; and

• risk of increased allergies.

By embracing the connection between environmental and human health, New Hampshire hospitals are becoming better neighbors to the communities they serve.

Through energy efficiency measures and switching to cleaner energy sources, several New Hampshire hospitals have decreased polluting emissions by as much as 85 percent, saving millions of dollars. We have moved to LED lighting, installed high-efficiency HVAC equipment, and invested in combined heat and power systems that save energy while providing power if the grid goes down – an absolute necessity for uninterrupted patient care. Some examples of how some hospitals around the state have invested in improving their energy use profiles:

• At the end of 2013, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center converted its boilers from No. 6 fuel oil, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels, to compressed natural gas. This conversion reduced fine particulate emissions, which pose the greatest health risks, by about 96 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions by over 99 percent, nitrous oxide emissions by about 75 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by about 3 percent. The decreased production of pollutants resulted in a savings of $58,000 in DHMC’s 2015 Title V annual emissions payment compared to 2012. DHMC is currently exploring opportunities to install solar and geothermal at the medical center.

• Between 2010 and 2014, Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene implemented a series of energy efficiency measures that decreased its energy usage by 30 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent, resulting in savings of $1.8 million. The projects included mechanical changes to their piping and air handlers as well as converting from fuel oil to natural gas.

• Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center installed a woodchip boiler system – a renewable, sustainable system that promotes local and state business. Over the past seven years, the center has saved over $3 million and avoided 24,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

• By utilizing a renewable biofuel, Memorial Hospital in North Conway not only reduced its greenhouse gases from heating fuels by 85 percent and total emissions by 75 percent, but also decreased its annual fuel costs from $450,000 to $213,000.

• Between 2008 and 2015, Monadnock Community Hospital implemented a series of energy efficiency measures that decreased its energy usage and emissions. Even though the hospital grew by 32,000 square feet, it was able to reduce its energy consumption. In its electrical program the hospital reduced its KWH by 423,733, representing a 7.8 percent reduction and a financial savings of $107,785. The facility converted their boilers from No. 4 oil to propane gas reducing emissions by 84.50 percent and achieving financial savings.

These are substantial investments that exemplify New Hampshire hospitals’ commitment to smart energy investment and investing in the needs of our patients. For health care organizations, controlling and lowering energy costs increases the money available for direct patient care. The Environmental Protection Agency found that every $1 saved on energy in a nonprofit hospital is equivalent to generating $20 in hard-to-find new revenue.

As health care providers committed to the health of the people of New Hampshire, we know we must be leaders in our community; leading on the transition to cleaner energy is an important piece of that puzzle. As a business, we have to invest our money wisely, and an investment in energy efficiency is a smart and a healthy one. We urge everyone – other hospitals, health care suppliers, our business colleagues, cities, towns, fellow citizens – to join us in being energy leaders by investing in our shared energy future.

(Robin Kilfeather-Mackey is chair of the Environmental Sustainability Council and CFO of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. Don Caruso is chief executive officer of Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene.)

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