Boston Hospitals Cut Energy Use by 6% Despite Continued Facility Growth

First-in-the-Nation Sector Energy Database Shows Good Trends

[A joint release with Boston Green Ribbon Commission]

Boston, MA - As a result of energy conservation and efficiency, Boston hospitals have cut their energy use by 6% over the last three years, despite expanding their real estate footprint, patient care, and more extreme weather, according to a report issued today.

The report analyzed over 18,000 energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) records covering 24 million square feet of Boston hospitals in a first-in-the-nation, metropolitan sector-wide database. Developed for the Boston Green Ribbon Commission's Health Care Working Group (GRC-HC) by its coordinator, Health Care Without Harm, the data tracks the sector's collective progress towards the GRC's shared goals of a 25% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020, and 80% by 2050.

Click here to read the report

Hospitals have made significant energy reduction and GHG progress. From January, 2011 through the end of 2013, the sector has cut energy use by 6%, equal to eliminating the annual GHG emissions of 7,486 passenger vehicles.

The report identifies several areas where Boston hospitals have made notable progress in energy efficiency, conservation and GHG reduction, including:

  • The sector reduced absolute, weather adjusted total energy use (electricity, gas, chilled water, oil and steam) by 227 billion Btu. 
  • Electricity use dropped 25.4 million kWh, 6.47% BAU, or 6,797 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e). 
  • Natural gas use dropped 1.2 million therms, 14.75% BAU or 6,367 MtCO2e. 
  • GHG reductions for all fuels was 5.7%, or 14,286 MtCO2e. 
  • Cost savings are conservatively estimated at $11.9 million, enough to pay for health care for 1055 Massachusetts Medicare enrollees.

Importantly, this progress was achieved despite continued growth in facilities and numbers of patients, more energy intensive research laboratories, and hotter summers. 

Read Gary Cohen's Huffington Post article highlighting the success of Boston hospitals in reducing their energy use

Three sector leaders have either already achieved, or will achieve, deep GHG reductions. Massachusetts General Hospital reached 35% reductions in 2014, Boston Medical Center is targeting a 45% reduction by 2020; Brigham & Women's Hospital is committed to reaching 35% by 2020.

"We are deeply committed to improving the quality of life for our patients, our employees and the community," said Gary Gottlieb, MD, co-chair of the GRC Healthcare Working group and President and CEO of Partners Healthcare, which includes Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and others. "By using resources more efficiently and reducing energy consumption, we can reduce costs and mitigate the effects of climate change -- leaving a better Boston for our children to enjoy." 

Thankfully, Boston’s health care sector is full of champions, who are leading by example, making major investments to increase efficiency, working collaboratively to share what’s working, and encouraging their peers to follow their lead.

- Mariella Puerto, Barr Foundation

Kate Walsh, co-chair of the GRC-HC and CEO of Boston Medical Center added, "Individual hospitals and the sector are making great progress, demonstrating cost savings. Reinvesting the savings in more and better clinical care, in research AND in more energy efficiency is critical to maintaining our momentum. Even though BMC is on track to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2020, a huge improvement, we all have a great deal of work to do to reach our collective goal of an 80% reduction by 2050. But with incentives to invest in the capital and operational improvement, hospitals can continue to reduce our energy consumption which is important for our fiscal health and the health of all of us," she said.

Using the US EPA Portfolio Manager and a custom website, GRC Health Care members have joined forces to ensure sector data is efficiently compiled for analysis. Benchmarking industry specific energy use across a city enables continuous improvement. 

"Boston is proud to be home to the world's top medical institutions for patient care, research, and now, sustainability," said Mayor Walsh. "These institutions understand that taking care of people also means taking care of our environment." "This report demonstrates that Boston's hospitals are making sizable contributions to reaching the city's carbon reduction goals," said Brian Swett, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. "Many of these institutions are committing to even further reductions through the Mayor's Carbon Cup."

"What's remarkable is that leading, highly competitive, medical institutions have come together to share their energy data for the greater good," said John Cleveland, Executive Director of the Green Ribbon Commission and President of the national Innovation Network for Communities. "We hope this helps inspire health care sectors in cities nationwide to follow Boston's lead."

"Everyone's health is impacted by environmental conditions. GRC-HC participants are helping the climate and our air quality because it's part of our mission to do no harm. We know community health starts with primary prevention," said Paul Lipke of Health Care Without Harm

Gary Cohen, Health Care Without Harm’s co-founder and president, added, "In the age of climate change, health care has a responsibility to address its own climate footprint and lead society toward an economy powered by renewable energy. GRC-HC members are at the forefront of a national movement to integrate environmental health into our mission to do no harm."


About the Boston Green Ribbon Commission

The Boston Green Ribbon Commission is a group of business, institutional and civic leaders in Boston supporting the implementation of the city’s Climate Action Plan. The plan includes strong recommendations on how Bostonians can increase efficiency, reduce emissions and prepare for extreme weather and higher sea levels. Many cities have produced similar plans. But few have also enlisted the support and leadership of the local business community as effectively as Boston, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. 

About Health Care Without Harm

Health Care Without Harm works to transform the health sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it becomes ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice. HCWH-Boston leads some of its most ambitious efforts, covering toxic reductions, green building, energy efficiency, and climate change. As a result, Boston's health care sector is playing a leadership role in regional efforts to address climate change.

For more information

  • John Cleveland, Executive Director, Boston Green Ribbon Commission 
  • Paul Lipke, GRC-HC Co-Coordinator, Health Care Without Harm
  • Leo LaRosa, Director of Utilities and Infrastructure, Boston Medical Center
  • John Messervy, Corporate Director of Design & Construction, Partners Healthcare