Healthcare Execs Deem Energy Efficiency a Higher Priority Than Other Execs Do: Report

Healthcare Execs Deem Energy Efficiency a Higher Priority Than Other Execs Do: Report

Healthcare executives place greater importance on energy efficiency compared with their counterparts in other industries, according to a new study.

The findings were released Monday by the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) and Johnson Controls, which together commissioned the 2008 Healthcare Energy Efficiency Indicator study [PDF].

The research, conducted in March, involved a survey of 335 energy decision-makers in the healthcare industry. The results were reviewed alongside those of a parallel, multi-industry study called the Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator [PDF], which surveyed 1,150 executives in North American in partnership with the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

According to the findings, 57 percent of respondents to the multi-industry study said energy efficiency is "extremely important" or "very important," while 65 percent of healthcare respondents said they considered energy efficiency extremely or very important.

The findings also indicated that healthcare organizations are more likely than firms in other industries to invest in energy efficiency. Sixty-seven percent of the healthcare organizations queried planned to spend capital on energy efficiency this year. In the multi-industry survey, 56 percent gave the same response. In addition, healthcare respondents indicated their organizations would tolerate a longer payback period — 4.2 years — on energy efficiency projects, compared with other industries, which expected payback within 3.6 years.

Healthcare organizations have been largely motivated by cost to step up energy efficiency, the study said. The survey found that 59 percent said the need for energy cost control was a greater motivator than environmental responsibility in their drive for efficiency. In contrast, the multi-industry survey found that 47 percent placed cost control ahead of environmental responsibility as a motivator.

Healthcare organizations surveyed also said they expect energy prices to rise 11 percent this year and projected that they will spend 8 percent of their capital budgets and 6 percent of their operating budgets for energy conservation during the same period.

"We live in an age of rising energy prices and growing environmental consciousness," said Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability for Johnson Controls, in a statement announcing the study findings. "All industries are investing more aggressively to control energy costs and improve their sustainability. We believe this is a long-term trend."

Dale Woodin, executive director of ASHE, said many healthcare organizations have already begun their efforts. "It takes a lot of energy to run a hospital," Woodin said in a statement. "As healthcare organizations look for ways to control costs and improve patient care, they are engineering energy efficient solutions that will pay off handsomely in three or four years."

Despite ranking energy efficiency as more important than did business counterparts, healthcare organizations have not invested in — or actively considered — renewable energy technology as much as other industries. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents from healthcare organizations reported doing so in contrast with 68 percent of multi-industry survey respondents.

The findings present an opportunity for improvement and education, said Don Albinger, vice present of renewable energy for Johnson Controls.

"Finding sites for energy generating equipment like solar panels and wind turbines can be a challenge for compact urban hospitals, but it is a challenge that can be overcome," he said in a statement.