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Conserve Energy to Preserve Margin

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, February 13, 2013
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With the grant covering the majority of the costs, the BPU loan needed to cover up-front costs of approximately $1 million for Saint Peter's. The loan's terms were generous, with three years of payments out via the hospital's energy bills. So as long as the project reached savings equal to its initial costs within the nine years, then the hospital wouldn't need to outlay any up-front capital and would see positive cash flow by the ninth year if not sooner.

At Saint Peter's, the loan repayment took just three years, explain Mulcahy and Stoldt. "We had a million dollars of costs spread over three years, and we had over a million dollar of savings in the first year, so it was positive cash flow for us practically out of the gate," says Stoldt.  "With both of these energy saving mechanisms in place, we're actively practicing cost avoidance."

Power-save = powerful savings
Moving toward energy efficiency doesn't require expansive or expensive projects; indeed, simple solutions can bring significant savings. Boston-based Partners HealthCare implemented a personal computer power-management plan that's saving the organization $1.5 million annually, says Manuela Stoyanov, corporate manager of client infrastructure design for Partners. With an expansive network including eight hospitals, more than 5,000 practicing physicians, and 170,000 admissions annually, Partners uses more than 30,000 PCs in its power-save program. 

With that many pieces of equipment of varying age and energy efficiency levels, Partners HealthCare needed to find a way to ensure that PCs were turned on only when in use, but finding the right software wasn't simple. It took Stoyanov and an intern a year of research to find a software program that would suit its needs, six months to install and test it, and then years to do an organizationwide phased roll out. In place for the past six years, the initiative is continuing to produce millions of dollars in energy savings.

Partners' power-save project started as an effort to address a problem the organization was having with power-save settings on its laptops. Stoyanov explains that while researching and testing solutions for its laptops, the organization decided to do an enterprisewide energy analysis of its desktops and laptops. As each hospital in the network had its own utility manager, centralizing and sifting through data was assigned to their intern. 

"It was difficult to get the data together. Finding out who had the data was the first part of the process; then we needed to collect the correct electricity usage data from everyone, and then extract the specific information associated with the computers," says Stoyanov. Once they had the numbers, Stoyanov needed to estimate the potential financial savings for pursuing this project. "That was hard to do because some of the monitors were bulky and old and others were new and more energy efficient. We decided that until we found a power-save solution, we couldn't get at a real number of what the savings per PC and per monitor would be."

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