Have you ever wondered how much energy it takes to run a hospital? In the case of HealthTrust member HCA for example: Every day, 200,000-plus employees throughout its offices and facilities (165 hospitals and 115 freestanding surgery centers) use the same amount of energy necessary to launch the space shuttle into orbit.Innovations in energy sourcing and delivery now offer providers everywhere new ways to reduce their consumption and costs.
Reducing Energy Consumption and Costs
Turning out lights, putting computers into sleep mode, and lowering or raising thermostats during off-peak times are the quickest fixes to control energy spend. But there are subtler, more sophisticated ways to govern energy consumption and find energy savings. That’s the focus of the Energy Service Center (ESC) in HCA’s FacilitiGroup Infrastructure Solutions, which provides expertise and tools to help HCA facilities improve their operational efficiency while lowering operating costs. The ESC focuses on reducing facilities’ energy consumption and costs through energy: analysis, procurement, conservation recommendations, audits and project delivery.
An energy audit at one HCA facility found that it was cycling lead and backup boilers daily instead of at standard weekly or monthly intervals. Each time the boilers were switched, the system needlessly used about $10 worth of extra natural gas. After working with the ESC and creating a new schedule, the facility was able to eliminate about 300 cycles a year, saving $3,000 annually.
According to Brian Weldy, vice president of FacilitiGroup, this change has resulted in other benefits as well. “The facility reduced time spent making the changes and increased the life of the equipment,” he says. “And while these are small gains in efficiency and cost reduction, we multiply the savings by preventing similar operational issues at every other HCA facility.”
The ESC uses three core initiatives to continuously monitor energy performance and develop action plans to improve energy efficiency within HCA facilities:
1. Utility usage dashboards — With data that comes from HealthTrust contracted supplier Capturis, an NISC Company (Contract No. 2570), HCA is able to show its facilities how their utility usage compares to other facilities within the IDN.
2. Building automation systems integration — Allows facilities to monitor and control their central plant operations from a single dashboard
3. Real-time metering — Enables facilities to monitor their usage in real time and immediately make adjustments to reduce energy consumption
The ESC’s newest addition is smart metering that provides scheduled reports and automated alerts when a facility approaches non-compliance with regulatory requirements such as monitoring operating room temperature, humidity and pressurization, and emergency power supply systems.
Addressing Peak Use Issues
As much as 50 percent of a facility’s electric bill may be based on energy used during a utility district’s most expensive peak demand times, which presents opportunities for savings. Bill Miller, director of strategic account integration for EnergyTrust—HealthTrust’s energy procurement solution—is exploring ways to cut back on peak electricity usage such as on-site generation through solar energy or combined heat and power. HealthTrust is also in the midst of a pilot program that utilizes smart batteries.
Hospitals want solutions that will cut utility costs, improve energy efficiency and support their commitment to sustainability.
The batteries work by reducing peak energy demand. When energy demands rise, the battery discharges, which allows energy to be delivered from the battery rather than the grid, reducing a facility’s use during the most expensive peak demand times. (See sidebar below.)
Mike Walker, founder and CEO of AlterAction, consults for the Energy Star program (see sidebar below), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s initiative to help businesses and individuals achieve greater energy efficiency. Many people look first at the obvious culprits—heating and air conditioning systems, lighting and insulation. Walker’s company focuses on a frequently forgotten area: IT.
One often overlooked opportunity is to ensure computers are in sleep mode or turned off when they’re idle.
“Energy savings from automatic computer power management typically range from $10–100 annually, per computer,” Walker says. “For an organization with 500 computers, that translates to $15,000 to $150,000 worth of cost savings over three years. That’s not trivial.”
A hospital’s data center is another overlooked area of potential energy savings, and “not just for hospitals big enough to add a stand-alone data center—I’m also talking about server rooms and server closets,” Walker says. If you walk into a server room and it’s colder than the rest of your building, you are in all likelihood over-cooling the room, wasting energy 24/7.
“Most data centers don’t fully utilize their existing computer servers before buying more. It’s possible to consolidate workloads onto fewer servers, eliminating unnecessary hardware and saving energy in the process,” Walker adds. “Also, it may not be laid out in a way that sufficiently cools the air [and therefore] … the equipment.”
After 14 years in IT energy consulting, Walker says he’s no longer surprised to learn that a facility’s IT team and the people paying its energy bills have never actually met. With each department only peripherally aware of the other, it’s easy to see why savings opportunities often go unnoticed. S
HealthTrust Battery Pilot Proves Promising
It sounds like a classic click-bait headline: This one simple trick can save you thousands on your annual electric bill. But in the case of smart batteries from Millbrae, California-based Stem, the savings for healthcare facilities could be very real.
Stem’s system relies on a compact battery, a power monitor and software that analyzes a facility’s energy usage and predicts times of peak demand.
Bill Miller, director of strategic account integration at EnergyTrust—HealthTrust’s energy procurement solution—is overseeing a pilot program in California healthcare facilities to determine whether the installation of smart batteries can change how electricity is delivered and consumed, ultimately leading to savings in both energy use and expenses. Two HCA facilities in San Jose—Regional Medical Center of San Jose and Good Samaritan Hospital—are participating in the program.
“The bottom line is that the batteries will be used to reduce the electricity demand charges on the facilities’ bills,” Miller says. “Electricity rates are projected to increase by more than 10 percent over the next two years and may rise further after 2018. So the projected savings numbers may be higher than indicated in the 10-year analysis conducted after a recent site visit.”
According to the site visit analysis, 474-bed Good Samaritan Hospital can expect to see more than $98,000 in net savings in its first year utilizing the Stem solution, over $500,000 in the first five years and upwards of $1.1 million in the first decade. Projections for 249-bed Regional Medical Center of San Jose are even more impressive, with predicted savings of $110,000 in the first year and $1.3 million over 10 years.
Start Saving on Energy
Looking for a place to start saving energy? Begin with an energy audit. Hays Energy Services (Contract No. 3262) helps hospitals establish an accurate baseline by factoring in weather patterns and actual energy use data. For energy savings in IT, HealthTrust members can take advantage of Energy Star’s free one-on-one technical consultations
by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are some other suggestions:
• Reduce peripheral energy consumption: Non-networked printers, copiers and scanners may be costing you big money. Consolidating these devices in favor of shared networked printers and copiers can reduce total printing costs by 30–40 percent or more, according to IT energy consultant Mike Walker, founder and CEO of AlterAction. Using smart power strips based on work hours and occupancy, as well as deploying sleep settings on all office machines, can increase energy efficiency and savings.
• Install LED (light-emitting diodes) lighting: Not only do LED lights use less than one-third of the energy consumed by fluorescents and seven times less than incandescent lighting, but they last longer, helping cut down on maintenance costs.
HealthTrust has contracted with the following suppliers offering LED lighting options: Acuity (Contract No. 5892); Graybar (Contract No. 6379); Grainger (Contract No. 363) and CED (Contract No. 6448).
• Choose energy-efficient equipment: Look for Energy Star certification on large equipment such as servers that will reduce power draw and measure real-time power use, and smaller items like computer monitors, which can improve efficiency by as much as 25 percent.
Explore Energy Savings Solutions From HealthTrust
Through EnergyTrust, HealthTrust offers hospital providers additional options
for energy savings. Contact your HealthTrust account director to learn more about the following solutions:
Procurement of natural gas, electricity and facility services
• Access to reliable, cost-effective sources of energy that support the delivery of healthcare services
• Materially lower costs than could be obtained individually—members average 10 to 20 percent savings
• Predictable costs that facilitate financial planning
• National coverage through HealthTrust agreements with suppliers
• Sustainable healthcare operations
• Customized hedging strategies to minimize cost volatility
• A cost structure superior to fee-based consultants
Contracting for Demand Response
• Allows hospitals to collect capacity payments in return for potential electric load reduction at peak demand periods
Services for Utility Bill Pay
• Receives, processes and pays utility invoices
• Eliminates late fees and billing errors
• Offers data capture and reporting to support energy management
• Provides customized reports to benchmark facility performance and automated Energy Star reporting