Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s Carbon Reduction Journey

Our aim is to match the global Climate Change Act targets set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, with a reduction in carbon footprint of 57% by 2025 from a 2007 base year and ultimately net zero by 2050.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust logo

Imperial College Healthcare NHS TrustImperial College Healthcare NHS Trust provides acute and specialist care for around a million and a half people every year. Formed in 2007, we are one of the largest NHS trusts in the country, with over 12,000 staff and a turnover of over £1.1 billion. Our five hospitals – Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and The Western Eye – have a long track record in research and education, influencing clinical practice nationally and worldwide. Alongside our academic partner Imperial College London, the Trust is one of the UK’s seven academic health science centres, working to ensure the rapid translation of research for better patient care and excellence in education.

Our aim is to match the global Climate Change Act targets set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, with a reduction in carbon footprint of 57% by 2025 from a 2007 base year and ultimately net zero by 2050. 

The challenges

In that regard, the first and foremost challenge is our ageing estate. This makes it increasingly difficult to provide high-quality care with some facilities pre-dating the NHS itself. The increasing use of energy-intensive diagnostic equipment along with the associated air conditioning requirements means that some of our buildings already exceed the maximum electrical associated supply capacity. 

Moreover, the sheer mix of buildings makes it very difficult to apply the same set of energy efficiency measures across the board. Instead, each building has to be looked at in isolation and therefore a lot of time and effort has been invested in identifying and implementing a bespoke solution. 

This programme of energy efficiency initiatives started in 2010 and since then the Trust has executed 35 different projects encompassing boiler economisers, building management systems, heating & hot water, LED lighting & upgrades, street lighting, transformers, voltage optimisation, VSDs and flue gas heat recovery.

The other challenge, as is the case with many other NHS Trusts, is access to internal funding for energy efficiency projects. Competing priorities mean clinical needs will always, and rightly so, take precedence. It is imperative then that we are really smart about the opportunities to reduce energy consumption without adversely affecting patients, staff and visitors. 

The Trust has been really fortunate that the senior management has always been very supportive of energy efficiency initiatives. However, the funding for these projects is not always easy to secure. That’s the reason the Trust approached Salix Finance in 2010 and applied for interest-free loans. This methodology proved really effective and has been followed for all the subsequent 35 projects implemented since then.

Compared with the combined baseline of 202 million kWh for electricity and gas which would have reached 210 million kWh in financial year 2018-19 in the business-as-usual scenario, the actual consumption stood at 175 million kWh, a 17% reduction. This has been achieved on the back of an investment of £10.4 million of interest-free loans which is contributing to a savings of £2.9 million per annum (lifetime savings of circa £35 million) and carbon savings of 16,575 tonnes per annum to the Trust.

The project that the Trust has completed in the last financial year will address one of the longstanding issues with the Trust’s CHPs. When these were commissioned in 2011, since the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) never allowed the Trust to connect these 2 sets on to their network, the Trust therefore had no option but to export all of the generated electricity on to the grid thereby losing significantly on carbon and financial benefits that a CHP brings. 

However, this all changed by the end of financial year 18-19 thereby saving the Trust circa at least £250K per annum (after taking into account export income) on its electricity bills as the electricity produced from CHPs will displace one-third of the site demand.

Finally, due to nature of services we offer (we operate 24/7/365) and our size (one of the largest NHS Trusts in the country) we are a big consumer of utilities and therefore responsible for the associated carbon footprint. 

This means in order to achieve our net zero ambitions, the Trust will need to explore options like Energy Performance Contracts and therefore implement a comprehensive package of measures which offer an opportunity to benefit from truly innovative and cutting-edge technology, risk transfer alongside the assurance of guaranteed savings.

Final thoughts

The Trust is almost 24% down on our 2007-08 energy emissions baseline and it has taken some huge strides last year for making significant dents in its carbon emissions. 

After having gained significant experience around implementing site-specific projects, the Trust is to start working on procuring an Energy Performance Contract that will enable it to not only take a holistic view of all the remaining avenues for energy efficiency and innovations but also profit from big-ticket items such as Combined Heating and Power Plant, power purchase agreements, battery storage and electric vehicle charging points (potentially even V2G if and when possible). In fact, the ambition is to integrate the above, aided by intelligent controls, so as to benefit from improved resilience and commercially beneficial arrangements that would help reduce energy bills. 

The Trust’s track record over the past 9 and a half years has helped to bring a range of stakeholders – from Finance, Procurement, Accounting, IT and Estates – on the same page. The aim now is to share our experiences and encourage other Trusts to invest in energy efficiency initiatives. 

As part of our Sustainable Development Management Plan, we are going to engage with stakeholders from across the board including Finance, IT, procurement, HR, communications and clinicians to ensure that there are action plans in each of these areas. We will set clear commitments to cut our environmental impact, reduce operating costs and improve wellbeing, covering each area of the triple bottom line of sustainability. 

Vikas AhujaAuthor’s profile:

Vikas Ahuja has 20 years of work experience spread across HVAC, ICT and energy management domains. With a background in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA from University of Cambridge and full membership of Energy Managers Association, Vikas oversees energy procurement, compliance, funding & implementation of major projects right through to measurement & verification and channelling of savings into further energy-saving projects. 

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