About 26% of the electricity Partners HealthCare buys this year for the facilities it owns will come from renewable sources. Its leaders wanted to reduce pollution from traditional fossil-fuel energy sources and the illness burden that pollution causes, as well as to play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
“Our responsibility as a healthcare provider is not just about taking care of people when they are ill,” said John Messervy, Partners' corporate director of design and construction. “It's really looking at the health and wellness of the community as a whole, and how we contribute to that.”
Boston-based Partners' energy-purchasing strategy is significant because the big hospital system uses as much power as the city of Cambridge, Mass., which has 105,000 residents. It's one of a growing number of health systems that are moving away from power produced from fossil-fuel sources to green energy that comes from renewable, non-polluting, non-carbon sources such as wind, solar and small hydroelectric projects that have a low environmental impact.
In some cases, renewable energy costs less than energy produced from conventional sources. Typically, the power produced from renewable sources does not flow directly to the health system's facilities. Instead, the system's contract for renewable energy supports the production of green energy that is added to the overall energy supply, reducing the need for so-called brown energy.
While the use of renewable energy is still uncommon in the healthcare sector, forward-thinking provider organizations are blazing a trail, said Cecilia DeLoach Lynn, director of facility engagement and metrics at Practice Greenhealth, a Reston, Va.-based not-for-profit that helps healthcare organizations adopt environmentally friendly practices. Indeed, some healthcare organizations, including Providence Newberg (Ore.) Medical Center and Gundersen Health System in LaCrosse, Wis., use renewable power to meet 100% of their needs.