Fighting energy costs in the healthcare sector

Fighting energy costs in the healthcare sector

The healthcare service is facing unprecedented pressures. These are occurring simultaneously from multiple sources. Although the biggest issues such as the Covid pandemic, funding and staffing tend to steal the headlines, they are by no means the only challenges facing hospital managers.

In particular, the cost of energy has risen dramatically in the last few months. For example, the cost of gas has risen from £0.40/therm to over £2.00 – that’s an increase of around 400% in less than a year. Industry analysts predict that these prices are going to remain at high levels for the foreseeable future.

According to official figures from NHS Digital, the total usage in 2020/21 from all energy sources across the NHS estate was 11.4 billion kWh. The same report records that the consumption of water for all hospital duties was around 34 million cubic metres; although this was a 10% reduction on the previous reporting period it remains, along with the price of energy, a considerable and growing cost centre for individual Trusts.

Commitment to net zero
At the same time as the costs of critical utilities are rising, the NHS has committed to reach net zero by 2040, for all the emissions that it directly controls. Although this is a critical goal it will not be without additional short-term costs through, for example, investment in energy saving measures and changes in operational practices.

The NHS has already taken significant steps along the right path – the reduction in water usage being an obvious example. However, there is much more in this area that can be achieved.

Reducing the cost of water
Water is used in a wide range of applications in the healthcare sector. These range from basic duties, such as the generation of hot water and pressurised steam, to critical processes where extremely high purity water is required, such as decontamination and renal dialysis.

Effectively managing the cost of water can be achieved in several ways: reducing the volume of water consumed; minimising the energy required to purify raw water; and recycling wastewater streams.

These goals can all be met through a combination of intelligent system design and the use of new technologies. For example, the quality of feedwater for boiler systems can often be improved through the simple expedient of introducing improved filtration or pre-treatment devices. These can help to reduce or eliminate the concentration of the dissolved salts and minerals that will otherwise cause boiler scaling and lead to increased energy consumption.

At the opposite end of the scale, the adoption of the latest reverse osmosis (RO) membranes in the water purification systems used for multi-patient or ring-main renal dialysis can result in considerable savings in both energy and water costs. These double-pass RO membranes provide significantly more purified water per pass than traditional devices, increasing yield by as much as 10%. Over the operating life of the system, this can dramatically reduce utility costs, while the use of advanced diagnostics and integrated heat sanitisation helps to minimise both maintenance costs and the use of chemicals.

These are just two of the ways in which hospital departments can start to make real savings to meet the growing commercial pressures with which they are faced. In the field of water purification, there are many more options that can be considered to control costs and enhance the quality of provision for patients.

To learn more, or for a free evaluation of your water needs – from boiler feedwater to renal dialysis – contact one of our water purification experts today.

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