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Why Hospitals are Missing a Key Opportunity to Reduce Emissions and Save Energy

NHS Trusts face a complex set of challenges when it comes to managing their energy effectively. Alongside a binding commitment to reach net zero emissions, hospitals must also contend with rising energy prices and tightening budgets. Finally, perhaps more than any other sector, the need for resilient and reliable energy to keep critical systems running is a fundamental requirement.

Balancing the Energy ‘Trilemma’

The World Energy Council has described the challenges faced by individual nations when it comes to providing a fit-for-purpose energy grid as the ‘energy trilemma’. This encompasses the need for security of supply, affordable prices, and an environmentally sustainable generation mix.

NHS Trusts and other healthcare providers face a very similar challenge on a smaller scale. Each step taken to reduce energy costs, improve sustainability, or bolster power resilience must be considered in this context, ensuring that each improvement does not negatively impact on the other aspects of your energy requirements. For many hospitals, the need for dependable emergency power could mean that your power resilience strategy is impacting on your energy bills and emissions.

In the case of disruption to your grid connection, your emergency generation needs to provide backup power instantaneously, preventing any risk of critical functions, such as operating theatres or intensive care, being impacted. For most Trusts, this emergency power is provided by multiple traditional, lead acid Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) batteries, providing direct backup power to a specific ward or theatre.

Why Your UPS May be Costing You Money and Carbon Emissions

When not called upon to provide emergency power, your UPS effectively sits idle. However, it continues to draw power to keep itself charged, as well as losing power through various losses such as heat and resistive loss. How much energy is wasted varies depending on the efficiency of your UPS and the total percentage load. For older models, efficiency can be as low as 85%, with newer ‘eco’ UPS systems reaching between 90% and 95% efficiency. This additional energy requirement not only adds to your energy bills, but also impacts on your carbon reduction efforts.

These additional costs and the impact that UPS losses can have on your sustainability performance are a primary reason that healthcare providers are increasingly exploring the application of Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS). Unlike traditional UPS systems that provide standby power for key equipment, a BESS provides site-wide resilience. Rather than simply standing by, BESS can operate constantly, providing a range of energy management benefits alongside seamless UPS protection.

Even when not being used for other power management techniques, a BESS uses only negligible amounts of energy when sitting idle compared to traditional UPS. This is because it uses intelligent software to monitor the grid, ensuring your site can respond to a disruption event within milliseconds. In comparison, most traditional UPS systems use a constant cycling of part-charging and discharging to detect changes in grid supply.

Improved energy efficiency helps to reduce energy bills, as does the ability of a battery system to purchase and store energy during periods when prices are low. These efficiency improvements also contribute towards achieving vital progress towards net zero targets.

For the growing number of Trusts that have invested in on-site generation such as solar PV, these benefits are even more pronounced. By using a BESS, power generated Behind-the Meter can be used more efficiently and reduce your need to purchase energy from the grid. For example, excess power generated during periods of bright, sunny weather can be stored and used later, such as overnight.

To find out more about the benefits offered by a Battery Energy Storage System and how it compares to traditional UPS systems, speak to one of our team here.

 

29 July 2021

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