Microgrid Helps Kaiser Permanente Achieve a First for Carbon Neutrality in Healthcare

Sept. 15, 2020
Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente has become the first integrated, non-profit healthcare system in the US to achieve carbon neutrality, a feat accomplished with the help of a renewable microgrid.

Healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente has become the first integrated, non-profit healthcare system in the US to achieve carbon neutrality, a feat accomplished with the help of a renewable microgrid. 

Located at a hospital in Richmond, California, the microgrid is among the technologies that the healthcare provider pursued to eliminate its 800,000-ton annual carbon footprint, the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road. 

Other strategies include renewable energy procurement, energy efficiency measures, purchase of carbon offsets, and use of low-polluting anesthesia gas.

“As wildfires rage across the Western US, we can all see that the health impacts of climate change are not abstract or far in the future — they are here today, and they disproportionately impact the most vulnerable among us,” said Greg Adams, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. “We must recognize, for example, that the pollution that leads to respiratory illnesses and is linked to higher mortality rates from COVID-19, disproportionately impacts Black and low-income communities. In order to create a healthier, more sustainable path forward, we must address the inseparable issues of climate and human health as one.”

The CarbonNeutral Protocol certified the Kaiser Permanente carbon reduction milestone. The certification applies to its Scope 1 and 2 emissions and select Scope 3 emissions. Scope 1 represents direct emissions from sources it owns or controls; Scope 2 are emissions attributable to the electricity it consumes and Scope 3 emissions come from sources it does not directly own or control, such as corporate travel.

As physicians, climate change is absolutely in our lane — let’s educate ourselves, our patients, and our communities,” said Imelda Dacones, president and CEO of Northwest Permanente Medical Group. “As a world, we will develop vaccines and effective medicines to treat the COVID-19 pandemic. Climate change, on the other hand, is a public health crisis where there will be no point of return if we don’t act today.”

 The US healthcare industry overall is responsible for roughly 10% of US greenhouse gas emissions.

The Richmond Medical Center microgrid combines a 250-kW solar PV-parking lot canopy; a 1-MW lithium-ion battery energy storage system; an existing, on-site heat and power system and real-time analytics linked to the high-performance data center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. The microgrid uses a controller custom-designed by Charge Bliss, a company whose CEO is a medical doctor. The microgrid was partially funded by the California Energy Commission.

Learn more about hospital microgrids in the Microgrid Knowledge special report, “Microgrids for Hospitals and Healthcare,” downloadable free of charge courtesy of Bloom Energy. 

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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