EU energy rules could cost NHS more than £70m a year

Plans for a European Union directive designed to encourage countries to reduce energy consumption are 'too rigid and top-heavy' and could cost the NHS millions of pounds.

That is the view of the NHS Confederation’s European Office, ahead of a vote in the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee on the proposed Energy Efficiency Directive tomorrow (December 20).

The NHS Confederation fears the directive, which aims to reduce Europe’s primary energy consumption by 20% cent by 2020, because it contains a requirement on public bodies to renovate 3% of its floor space of their total building stock to high energy efficiency levels each year.

Total NHS floor space is about 28m square metres, and according to the Confederation, applying the annual 3% refurbishment target of 840,000 square metres, at an average cost of £100 per square metre would result in the cost of implementing the measures at more than £70mi a year for buildings alone.

While the confederation says the NHS ‘leads the way’ in many areas of the green agenda, its European Office claims the directive, as proposed, will have a major impact on the health service at a time when it is striving to achieve £20billion in savings over the next four years.

The NHS Confederation’s European Office estimates that this measure could leave the NHS liable for annual costs of more than £70 million in meeting this part of the directive alone. It says that given the NHS’ vast, and often Victorian-era estate, the proposal would be especially damaging for acute services, with significant costs incurred to meet high-energy efficient specifications.

NHS Confederation’s European Office director, Elisabetta Zanon, said: “The NHS is fully committed to improving its energy efficiency and has made great progress in recent years to become more sustainable and eco-friendly.

“As the NHS owns a vast and complex estate, we appreciate the need to modernise our buildings, and consume energy more efficiently.

“But these EU proposals are too rigid and top-heavy, they will create a real headache for organisations that are already trying to find sizeable savings.

“We really don’t want to find ourselves in a scenario where we have to divert money away from patient care to pay for costly building renovations.”

The full European Parliament is expected to vote on the directive in April 2012.

Luke Walsh

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