Call to action for energy efficiency in healthcare
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Healthcare costs in the United States are at an all-time high, and continue to balloon. And while a slew of legislation introduced during the 114th Congress sought to address the issue, one of the most opportune areas for cutting costs — energy-efficient retrofits — is largely unexplored.

Hospitals are among the largest consumers of energy in our economy, burning through two and a half times more energy than the average commercial building. At a cost of over $9 billion in 2015 alone, this enormous expense trickles down to the end consumer, negatively impacting patient care and quality of life for hospital employees.

While the unique characteristics of the always-on 24/7 healthcare sector make energy cuts a challenge, we know it can be done. Innovative hospitals, like the Gunderson Health System in Wisconsin, have already made significant investments in energy-efficient technology.

When Gunderson began taking low-cost measures by retrofitting light fixtures in six buildings on two of its campuses in 2008, the system anticipated an energy cost savings of approximately $245,000 per year. By 2014, Gunderson’s retrofits had resulted in reaching a net-zero level of energy consumption, improving efficiency by over 40 percent and saving the system nearly $2 million.

Even modest investment can spur significant savings and economic growth: A 2011 Energy Foundation study found that each dollar saved through energy efficiency measures like implementing LED lighting is the equivalent of generating $20 in new enterprise revenue. Abandoning fluorescent lighting for LEDs delivers an estimated 75 percent in savings by enabling lower power consumption, a significantly longer lifespan, little maintenance and no hazardous materials.

But in the absence of a comprehensive national strategy, such modifications are limited in their impact. Congress has taken steps, introducing The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 (also known as Shaheen-Portman) to broadly incentivize investment in energy-efficient products. But the current policies fail to address the healthcare sector in particular. If Congress is serious about improving efficiency and lowering hospital costs for the consumer, it must address this community directly and develop policies and incentives specifically tailored to its needs.

On behalf of the Health Energy in Healthcare Coalition, a group of hospitals and efficiency solutions companies, I urge Congress to do more to spur energy-efficient innovation in the healthcare sector. Such an effort would trigger widespread adoption of sustainable, cost-cutting, energy-efficient practices in America’s hospitals. The policies this effort would create stand to reduce healthcare costs and improve patient quality of care while spurring job growth and economic development in the United States.

Isaac Brown is the Executive Director of the Healthy Energy in Healthcare Coalition, a new coalition of businesses advocating for energy innovation advances within the healthcare sector, and a partner at 38 North Solutions.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.