Victorian health system’s carbon emissions down 6.2 per cent
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Sustainability 13 August 2021

Victorian health system’s carbon emissions down 6.2 per cent

Victorian public hospitals and health services alone are responsible for a quarter of the Victorian Government’s energy related carbon emissions.

Despite increasing demand for hospital and health services, overall carbon emissions from energy use in the Victorian health system have dropped 6.2 per cent over the past two years.

This downwards trend is in part due to the public health sector proactively embedding environmental sustainability into operations to support Victoria achieving net carbon zero by 2050.

Achieving net carbon zero by 2050

In 2017, the Victorian Government set a target for Victoria to be net carbon zero by 2050.

This means reducing Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and counteracting any remaining emissions through activities like planting trees or capturing more carbon in the ocean and coastal ecosystems. In May this year, the Victorian Government launched the Climate Change Strategy. To achieve net zero emissions by 2050, the strategy set the following interim targets:

  • reductions of 28 to 33 per cent by 2025
  • reductions of 45 to 50 per cent by 2030.

The strategy also set a target for hospitals and other government operations including schools and police stations, to have 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2025.

Improving the health systems environmental performance

Our latest Sustainability performance report tracks our progress against the actions identified in the Environmental sustainability strategy 2018-19 to 2022-23.

When comparing data about the health system’s environmental performance over the past two years to 2017-18 data, we found that that overall carbon emissions from energy use have decreased 6.2 per cent (or 49,007 tonnes).

This decrease is due to several factors, including:

  • changes in the grid carbon emissions intensity factor
  • energy efficiency improvements delivered throughout each year
  • good facility management practices.

Another contributing factor to the decrease in overall carbon emissions is the installation of solar arrays at Victorian public hospitals. Solar arrays are a collection of multiple solar panels that generate electricity. They help lower energy bills and cut greenhouse gas emissions, making the running of public hospitals greener and are more cost-effective.

Regional Health Solar program

The $13.5 million Regional Health Solar program is a Victorian Government initiative to install solar panels on rural and regional hospital rooftops. The program aims to help drive down energy costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The program has installed solar arrays with an aggregate generating capacity of 7.5 megawatt-peak on 59 health facilities across the state. Solar arrays on a further 20 health facilities, with a capacity of 1.3 megawatt-peak, are under installation and due for completion later this year.

Map of Victoria showing Albury, Mildura, Melbourne and Geelong. The map uses yellow dots to show solar installations in progress and blue dots to show solar installations completed. The size of the dot shows the amount of solar power in kWp, from less that 30 to over 200.

Figure 1: Solar arrays on Victorian public hospitals supported by the regional health solar program

Patrick Turnbull is the Subregional Collaboration Project Manager at Western District Health Service. He explains how the Regional Health Solar program supports the local economy.

'A collaborative approach allowed us to invest $3.3 million through a local supplier to install 2.5 megawatt-peak of solar across 25 health facilities, supporting 11 health services across the Barwon-Southwest region.'

At VHBA, we are progressively capturing data on electricity generated by hospital solar arrays. In 2018-19, solar arrays on Victoria’s public hospitals generated 1.4 gigawatt-hours of electricity. In 2020-21 this increased to 9.8 gigawatt-hours, reducing carbon emissions by some 11,000 tonnes – despite data not being collected on all installed arrays.

Once the program is complete, the solar panels installed are set to generate two per cent of our state-wide hospital electricity consumption. Hospital electricity costs will also be reduced, with a total estimated saving of $2.7 million in energy expenditure every year.

Energy efficiency projects

Over the past two years, we’ve also continued to support health services with energy efficiency projects.

For example, at Dental Health Services Victoria, we funded the replacement of 232 fluorescent lights with LED lighting.

Josie Spadara, Manager Infrastructure Operations at Dental Health Services Victoria, reported a significant reduction in energy use at the health service.

'There is a 50 per cent lighting energy reduction now, compared to our previous fluorescent lighting, resulting in an approximate 25,000 kilowatt-hours saving per annum. We cannot wait to roll out the LED lighting upgrade throughout the remainder of our building.'

In 2014, the Department of Health entered into a loan agreement with the West Gippsland Healthcare Group to implement an energy performance contract (EPC). Additional loan funding has now been secured to expand the EPC to:

  • remove central steam from Warragul Hospital
  • install a new steam boiler and new steam pipework
  • install a 185 kilowatt-peak solar array on the laundry building
  • install LED lighting
  • complete other minor works.

The project will reduce carbon emissions by 1,115 tonnes and deliver annual utility savings of $340,000.

What’s next

VHBA received $40 million of loan funding in the Victorian Budget 2020-21 to upgrade hospital lighting to LEDs and install solar arrays.

Following a call for expressions of interest, we are supporting the installation of 2.4 megawatt-peak of solar across 32 health facilities and LED upgrades at 30 health facilities. Successful health services have been notified and are in the process of procuring the projects.

A key part of the program was preparing standard specifications for the installation of solar arrays and upgrading lighting to LEDs. Health services can request a copy of the specifications by e-mailing sustainability@health.vic.gov.au.

Public hospitals and health services who are interested in an interest free loan for solar arrays (metropolitan and regional) and LED upgrades (regional) should contact sustainability@health.vic.gov.au.

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Last updated: 13 August 2021