Powering hospitals with community wind turbines could save NHS millions, report reveals
04 January 2021
By Hayley Carmichael
Delivering healthcare demands a lot of energy – not only from the hardworking people who work in it, but also in terms of heat and power for our healthcare facilities. We can choose a greener way to meet this demand…
The answer is blowing in the wind...
A new study from climate charity Possible has revealed that powering hospitals with wind turbines owned by their local communities could save the NHS millions. By diverting profits, otherwise destined for shareholders, into local projects to reduce fuel poverty, community owned energy suppliers could help NHS Trusts avoid treatment costs for cold related illnesses. The approach would also help the NHS – the largest public sector carbon emitter – achieve its world-first 2040 ‘net-zero’ carbon climate target. The report’s findings suggest that if NHS Trusts bought electricity from new community owned onshore wind projects, each year’s spend on electricity could save Trusts £2.6m each in healthcare costs over the following decade. This means that for every pound spent on community wind electricity, NHS Trusts could also ‘buy’, for no additional cost, 30p of avoided future healthcare costs.
Projects that help people over profits
Community energy projects, rather than making profits, invest their surplus income into projects, such as local energy efficiency and advice schemes. The schemes avoid future healthcare costs for Trusts by reducing conditions linked to cold homes, such as respiratory and circulatory illnesses. Currently these conditions cost the NHS in England more than £1bn per year.
The report shows that Trusts could commission electricity from new community-owned renewable energy projects at the same price as grid costs; reducing their carbon footprints and supporting the creation of new clean energy projects – in addition to the healthcare savings. This would help to increase the UK’s renewable electricity capacity, a key recommendation given to the government by their official advisors, the Climate Change Committee, in their most recent advice.
A growing will to create a positive change in how we power our NHS
Recent polling carried out by YouGov for Possible found that more than three quarters of the public (76%) would be in favour of powering their local hospital with locally produced clean energy. However, under current planning restrictions new onshore wind turbines are all but blocked in England, with only a handful granted permission in five years. Possible wrote recently alongside RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to the Energy Minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, to call for an immediate end to planning red tape. Last week the government’s official climate change advisors also called on the government to bring in a favourable planning regime for onshore wind turbines.
“Powering up our beloved NHS with cheap, community owned wind power is just what the doctor ordered, unlocking healthier people, precious hospital cash and urgent climate action. But by blocking new onshore wind turbines in England, the government is refusing to heed this prescription – even while giving fossil fuel projects the thumbs up. With three in four Brits behind us, we’re calling on ministers to allow communities to say yes to wind-powered hospitals, and let our beloved health service truly build back better.” Alethea Warrington, campaigner at Possible
Dr Rita Issa, GP and academic, said,
“As a doctor, I see first hand the health effects of cold homes on my community, and how the NHS supports to get people the care they need. With the NHS battling coronavirus on a limited budget, and the declaration this year that the NHS aims to be the world’s first ‘net zero carbon’ national health service, this initiative is a win-win. It’s a blueprint for a better future, where together we’re saving lives, money and the planet.”
All polling figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,641 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd – 4th November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).