The legislation of the UK Government’s Net Zero target saw a spiral of commitments from businesses, institutions and local authorities pledging their own net zero targets, often well in advance of the national 2050 goal.
The National Health Service (NHS) is among those to have set progressive targets with a commitment to being the world’s first ever net zero health service. In 2020, despite the significant strain of the health crisis, the NHS published its multi-year strategy to be carbon neutral by 2040, starting with an 80% reduction in emissions between 2028 and 2032. A Net Zero Hospital Standard has been developed as part of the Government’s Health Infrastructure Plan and applies to 40 new build hospitals since spring 2021.
Meeting these ambitious targets will require action across all areas of the NHS, which currently makes up between 4-5% of England’s total carbon footprint. One of the greatest areas of opportunity is the decarbonisation of hospitals and buildings, which comprise a significant 15% of total NHS carbon emissions. Changing the way in which these estates and facilities are heated is essential, and with the provision of a warm, comfortable environment being paramount, the service will need to shift away from fossil fuels and take advantage of low carbon, reliable solutions for its heating and cooling systems.
Heat networks, otherwise known as district heating, have a key role to play in the decarbonisation of heat in buildings and are particularly suited to the high population and heat demand of hospital facilities. This is thanks to their ability to supply heat to multiple buildings from a central source through a series of insulated pipes carrying hot water, removing the need for each individual building to generate its own heat on site.
The development of heat networks could therefore provide cost-effective, reliable, low carbon heating to multiple NHS facilities and unlock larger-scale, renewable and recovered heat sources. However, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) report that only 5% of non-residential buildings in the UK are currently supplied by heat from heat networks. Universities, light industries, public buildings and hospitals have great potential carbon savings and there is a need to facilitative the delivery of a wider range of projects. The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy projects that heat networks will in fact meet 24% of heat demand in industrial and public sector buildings by 2050.
To increase the number of heat networks being constructed across the UK, the Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) was launched by BEIS, followed on by the launch of the Green Heat Network Fund (GHNF) in 2022. Leeds PIPES Heat Network, one of the successful schemes from the HNIP, announced in September 2021 that St James’s Hospital is to benefit from an expansion of the heat network through an Energy Performance Contract. This will not only help to save 16,612 tonnes of carbon every year for the hospital, but it is assisting in Leeds’ target to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Ms Mary Day, CEO of St James’s Hospital said:
The hospital has always been committed to innovation and the Energy Performance Contract allows us to lead the way as a sustainable healthcare provider, while continuing to provide a safe environment for our patients and staff.”
The GHNF now allows for NHS Trusts and hospitals to apply directly to the scheme, which was not the case with its predecessor HNIP. This scheme seeks to provide £288 million of investment to applicants across England as part of plans to grow and develop the market so that it can thrive long term. The funding provided supports these sustainability objectives and forms a key part of decarbonisation strategies. The scheme can help the NHS to tackle its carbon footprint and alleviate the long-term health impacts caused or exacerbated by climate change and air pollution.
In support of the NHS commitment to become the world’s first net zero health service, we would like to encourage NHS trusts to reach out to the GHNF team at Triple Point Heat Network Investment Management to discuss the best way forward at firstname.lastname@example.org.