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Hospitals’ fossil fuel use trending downward, but electricity use isn’t declining as much

Codes and Standards

Hospitals’ fossil fuel use trending downward, but electricity use isn’t declining as much

Energy and water benchmarking study finds average carbon footprint remaining fairly steady.


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | June 14, 2022
Hospital building
Courtesy Pixabay.

The 2021 Hospital Energy and Water Benchmarking Survey by Grumman|Butkus Associates found that U.S. hospitals’ use of fossil fuels is declining since the inception of the annual survey 25 years ago, but electricity use is dipping more slowly.

The average combined Btu/ft2 (electricity plus gas/steam) for participating facilities was 236,743 in this year’s survey, up from 233,491 in 2019. “However, interpretation of year-to-year trends should be tempered by the realization that the respondent pool for the 2021 survey was different from the pool from the 2020 edition, due to the stresses that COVID-19 response placed on the healthcare facility personnel who normally participate, particularly during 2019,” according to a news release.

Hospitals’ average carbon footprint has remained fairly steady at 50 to 60 pounds of CO2 equivalent per square foot per year since GBA began calculating carbon data in 1999. CO2 footprint in 2020 was up from a low in 2019 (likely attributable to a change in respondents for the 2020 survey), but still shows an 18% decrease from 2018.

“To meet the ambitious goals put forth by the Biden Administration, hospitals will have to achieve much more significant reductions in the near term,” says GBA-Illinois Chairman Dan Doyle. “These reductions can only be achieved by implementing larger and more costly retrofits of existing buildings.

“The drive to decarbonize will also require building owners to embrace fuel switching to renewable-based energy sources. Many leading healthcare systems are implementing on-site renewables (usually solar photovoltaic systems), as well as off-site renewables, often funded through Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) to purchase some or all of their electricity.”

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