The Leader Magazine

SEP-OCT 2015

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K aiser Permanente wants to clear the air. The healthcare provider has made a record-breaking purchase of renewable energy that will cut greenhouse gases, save money and immediately reduce some of the air pollutants that are harmful to humans. This shift to wind and solar energy sources will provide half of the electricity for Kaiser Permanente's facilities in California. It is the largest green energy initiative ever made by a healthcare company and will make Kaiser Permanente one of the largest users of wind and solar energy in the U.S. The initiative is born from Kaiser Permanente's basic mission to improve health. The same carbon dioxide and other by-products of burning fossil fuels that wreak havoc on the environment are hard on humans, too. "The health impacts of a changing climate can be felt today in the form of increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory ailments, the spread of infectious diseases, heat stress and injuries from severe weather events," says Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser Permanente's environmental stewardship officer. As one of America's leading healthcare providers with 10 million members, Kaiser Permanente feels a special obligation to reduce its carbon footprint and protect communities from the effects of climate change. "Replacing fossil fuels with green power is the most important step we can take to reduce pollutants that can lead to disease," says Rame Hemstreet, Kaiser Permanente's chief energy officer. Hitting the Target The project began with the national sustainable energy policy the company adopted in 2012. At that time, Kaiser Permanente set an ambitious goal of reducing its own greenhouse emissions by 30 percent nationwide by 2020. With a nationwide network of hospitals, clinics, warehouses and offices, Kaiser Permanente has a large physical footprint that translates to a significant energy demand: a total of some 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity used per year. That energy production contributes some 806,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, as measured in 2008. To reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent, Kaiser Permanente will significantly expand the number of its hospitals with solar panels onsite and purchase energy from off-site projects. The company says the combo will bring emissions down to the target reduction by 2017 – a full three years ahead of the original goal. When the program is fully operational, it will produce a total of 590 million kilowatt hours of green energy. It will prevent some 215,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being pumped into the air per year. How much is that? Picture a traffic I s renewable energy a viable alternative for the future? The President of the United States thinks so. Citing extreme temperatures (scientists predict 2015 will be the hottest year on record), severe weather and increasing air pollution that many believe are caused by carbon emissions, President Barack Obama in August unveiled the Clean Power Plan, perhaps the U.S.' most important action on climate change to date. The regulations released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require each state to begin finding ways to cut carbon emissions by 2022, by shifting to cleaner- burning fuels and moving away from carbon-heavy fuels. The states would choose one of three options whereby to achieve this goal: 1) improve heat rates for coal-fired steam generators, 2) switch out higher-emitting steam units for existing but lower-emitting, combined-cycle combustion turbines fired by natural gas and 3) increase the use of renewable energy. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030. Opponents of the plan speculate that the regulation could potentially negatively impact jobs and economic growth in states with high economic dependency on power plants. But Obama Administration officials say the launch of incentive programs and initiatives to drive early adoption of the renewable energy standards and encouraging corporate interests to deploy efficiency protocols, will not only offset the potential risks but will drive economic growth. Figures released by the EPA estimate that the cost of the Clean Power Plan would be $8.4 billion per year, with total benefits expected to be between $34 billion and $54 billion. The U.S.' CLEAN POWER PLAN: the Antidote to Carbon Emissions? September/October 2015 | the LEADER 23

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