Hospital energy use and costs rising, according to survey

A survey on energy use shows a rise in energy costs and use as hospitals are struggling to reduce the carbon footprint

By Grumman/Butkus Associates March 18, 2020

Grumman/Butkus Associates, a firm of energy efficiency consultants and sustainable design engineers, released the results of its 2019 Hospital Energy and Water Benchmarking Survey. The survey focuses on healthcare facilities’ resource usage trends and costs for 2018.

Since G/BA initiated the survey more than 20 years ago, hospitals’ overall fossil fuel use has trended downward, but electricity use isn’t declining as much. The average combined Btu/ft2 (electricity plus gas/steam) for participating facilities was 245,258 in this year’s survey, up from 241,733 in CY2017.

Square-foot prices for gas/steam fell modestly ($0.74 in 2918, compared with $0.75 in 2017), but square-foot prices for electricity climbed rose sharply ($2.57 in 2018, compared with $2.41 in 2017). The overall result is that hospitals’ total ft2 costs for energy (gas/steam plus electric) increased: $3.31 for 2018, compared with $3.16 for 2017.

Hospitals’ average carbon footprint has remained fairly steady at 50 to 60 pounds of CO2 equivalent per ft2 per year since G/BA began calculating carbon data in 1999. “If we are going to address the very daunting issue of climate change, the healthcare industry must make greater strides in reducing its carbon footprint,” said Dan Doyle, G/BA chairman. “As the trend data shows, not enough progress is being made so far.”

Participating facilities displayed a broad range of usage patterns. For instance, some participants are using more than 250,000 BTU/ft2 in fossil fuel annually, compared with a general mid-range of facilities (about 140,000 BTU/ft2/year) and those that used least (75,000 BTU/ft2/year or less). Similarly, a few hospitals consume more than 45 kWh/ft2/year in electricity, compared with a mid-range of about 30 kWh/ft2/year. A few squeaked by with less than 18 kWh/ft2/year.

“Facilities that have high unit costs for energy should view this as an opportunity,” Doyle said. “For example, an energy conservation project that would have a five-year payback at an ‘average’ facility may have a payback of just 2.5 or 3 years at a facility with higher unit costs for energy.”

Hospital water/sewer use is also gradually declining, currently averaging about 48 gallons per square foot per year (compared with more than 60 gallons/ ft2/year a decade ago). Costs for water/sewer are generally rising, however, now averaging $0.44 /ft2. “G/BA expects the trend of rising water and sewer costs to continue,” Doyle said. “Price hikes not only reflect increasing costs to extract and treat the water, but also the fact that cash-strapped governmental entities may view water as a revenue source. Costs to upgrade or replace aging infrastructure are also contributing to escalating costs.”

Author Bio: Grumman/Butkus Associates