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How to get ahead in NHS procurement: the impact of Net Zero for NHS suppliers

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It’s fast approaching a year since the publication of ‘Delivering a ‘Net Zero’ National Health Service’, and suppliers have a critical role to play in meeting net zero targets and deadlines.

Identified within ‘NHS Carbon Footprint Plus’ and responsible for over 60% of carbon emissions across the NHS, the target dates for suppliers to achieve net zero themselves is set as 2045, with an ambition to reach an 80% reduction by 2036 – 2039.

Procuring products from more than 80,000 suppliers, and with more than 4.5 million orders per year, the NHS is now using its considerable purchasing power to influence environmental change. A stated aim in the Report is to extend current procurement policies to specifically exclude companies that aren’t actively working towards net zero within their own organisations.  The NHS Supply Chain Sustainability Corporate Statement makes this very clear,

“Our aim is to support our customers by realising opportunities for sustainable development through sustainable operations and sustainable procurement to ultimately deliver sustainable value.”

This represents both a challenge for existing suppliers – a myriad of companies from large multinationals to single-product SMEs – as well as an opportunity for companies looking to move into the NHS supply chain, hoping to gain a competitive advantage through their own net zero strategies.  Here, we consider a couple of areas where companies can take action to help meet net zero targets. As well as making them more competitive in the NHS procurement process, it will be helping to meet UK national net zero targets, with the added benefits of energy saving, resilient power supply and greater efficiency.

Switching your fleet to EVs and investing in charging stations to make this feasible is an obvious way to reduce carbon emissions, help meet net zero targets, and to support employees who are changing to electric vehicles.  Transportation is identified as one of the major aspects of the NHS’ own carbon footprint and so, as a current or prospective NHS supplier, it makes sense to implement this move as well.  This is, arguably, the most straightforward signal to the NHS that your company is committed to the same sustainability goals and target dates.

There are several factors to consider when implementing an EV strategy.  Critically, do you have the capacity for EV charging?  A significant addition to energy supply requirements such as EV charging may well take you above your authorised capacity which could lead to such an initiative being blocked by your DNO (Distribution Network Operator). This can make the move to an EV fleet prohibitively expensive or even a non-starter, unless you have an energy generation option in place.

A Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) can overcome this major issue, while contributing to a net zero strategy – a requirement for all companies by 2050, as well as a necessity for NHS suppliers by 2045.  Combining on-site renewable energy generation, with solar power being the most obvious option, with the capacity to store such energy can mean that excess energy generated when the sun is shining can be saved until it is needed. This can reduce reliance on the grid, helping to avoid issues around additional energy requirements for EV charging, as well as offering potential cost-savings through energy generation as opposed to energy purchasing.  And such a strategy incorporating BESS technology, bringing together renewable energy generated locally on a microgrid to support the move to EVs, sends a clear message of a commitment to net zero – particularly relevant, here, given the stated NHS sustainable procurement policy.

Moving to a BESS as part of an overall energy and sustainability strategy offers additional benefits of particular relevance to the range of high volume or high value manufacturers that make up a significant proportion of NHS suppliers, such as pharmaceutical or medical device specialists.  As the UK as a whole moves to net zero, and the energy landscape continues its shift away from fossil fuels to entirely renewable, then energy resilience becomes an ever-pressing demand.  Such companies may, historically, rely on a traditional UPS (uninterruptible power supply) solution to safeguard components, products, data and processes in case of a disruption in energy supply.  However, implementing a BESS solution can help future-proof energy management in a world where power supply is becoming less stable from the grid.  As well as signalling a clear commitment to net zero which, we know, is vital for NHS procurement, now and for the future, a resilient energy storage and microgrid system can mean the difference between the loss of valuable products in the case of a power supply disruption, while also offering increased efficiency, and the capacity to store – and potentially generate revenue from – excess energy.

As specialists in resilient power solutions, Powerstar has a strong track record in working with the NHS and longstanding relationships with Trusts and hospitals across the UK. This understanding of NHS strategy and policy translates into a comprehensive grasp of the issues and requirements now faced by companies large and small throughout the supply chain.

 

To find out more about our resilient energy solutions and how they could help with net zero for NHS procurement, please get in touch.

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