Counting the cost of energy

Energy use and spend is becoming a key issue within the NHS. Its annual energy bill currently stands at approximately £400 million and it remains the largest employer and estate owner in Europe. Recent electricity price rises mean that NHS organisations across the UK are set to face even higher energy costs in the future.

Carbon footprint
Aside from the cost imperative, reducing energy use is the most immediate way for organisations to combat climate change. Climate change is the biggest environmental threat faced by the UK and the reduction of carbon emissions, the main cause of climate change, is now a key priority for all organisations. Each year, the NHS emits approximately one million tonnes of carbon. Environmental legislation requires large scale energy consumers to restrict their carbon emissions, and the NHS is no exception. Further regulatory pressure from the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is designed to address existing energy consumption to control current and future operating costs. Given its status within the community, the NHS has an important role to play in demonstrating how improved energy management can significantly reduce an organisation’s carbon footprint and its impact on the environment.
In terms of corporate reputation, the benefits of cutting energy costs are perhaps more obvious in healthcare than any other sector – saving money on energy bills allows financial resources to be diverted to pay for better services, and ultimately improving the health of the local community. But how can the NHS start to tackle the expensive problem of wasted energy without investing significant capital and time up front at the expense of patient care and staff?

New environmental scheme
NHS organisations across the UK will soon be able to benefit from a new scheme designed by the Carbon Trust to help them get to grips with their energy bills and reduce their impact on the environment. An independent company funded by government, the Carbon Trust works with private and public sector organisations in the UK to help them cut their carbon emissions as part of the drive towards a low carbon economy. Last year, the Carbon Trust helped its customers identify 3.9 million tonnes of annual CO2 savings — with potential associated annual cost savings of £390m. In terms of the public sector, one fifth of all UK local authorities are already working with the Carbon Trust to secure a combined energy cost saving of up to £20 million.

Carbon Management programme
The Carbon Trust’s NHS Carbon Management programme, launched last October, is designed specifically to provide NHS staff with practical support to integrate good energy and carbon management into their organisation’s infrastructure at all levels. The initiative provides a range of services including analysis tools to assess potential savings opportunities, technical expertise, workshops for staff and management training.
The Carbon Management programme involves project management and stakeholder communication, data gathering, opportunity assessment and business case development. The Carbon Trust’s initial assessment, advice and support, as part of the NHS Carbon Management programme, is free of charge but the organisation’s project leader should expect to devote at least two days a week to this during the programme’s ten month duration. The leader will also have to delegate tasks to other team members in order to implement the recommendations, which may include initial capital investment from the client organisation. Ten NHS organisations are taking part in phase one, and a second phase will launch in May of this year.

Network for sharing ideas
Sharing energy efficiency best practice within the sector is also vital, and the Carbon Trust’s NHS Network gives energy managers and estate managers the opportunity to do this with colleagues across NHS organisations. The network is free for NHS managers working on energy issues. Members can search for messages by specific topic and learn and build on what others have already done. Managers can sign up for the NHS network at For NHS managers that want to get started today, the Carbon Trust also offers a range of services, including energy surveys, and advice on no and low cost ways to cut energy use via its free helpline – 0800 085 2005 – and website: .
Taking action to reduce energy use is key – and the help needed by the NHS to do so is now available from the Carbon Trust. Not only does reducing energy use and spend allow resource to be reinvested to improve provision for patients and support for staff – it also contributes to cutting the UK’s carbon emissions, and ultimately fighting back against climate change.

For more information
More information on the NHS Carbon Management programme is available at .
Managers interested in participating in phase two of the programme, should email

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