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

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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. 

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.