NHS sitting on waste-to-energy ‘gold mine’

Hospitals could make significant savings in the future by tapping into the waste they produce to power their sites as part of a decentralised energy strategy.

This is according to MITIE, a leading outsourcing firm, which is working with a number of NHS trusts to improve their sustainability ratings.

Speaking at an event for NHS waste managers last week in London, the company’s director of asset management Mark Denham said that trusts needed to view their residual waste arisings as a potential fuel source that could be exploited on-site through energy recovery.

“One of the trends we are seeing among NHS trusts is waste-to-energy, we’re seeing that energy conversation being brought increasingly into waste talks – especially around the thermal treatment of clinical waste,” he told delegates.

Denham pointed out that a lot of hospitals have mothballed incinerator plants on-site, which could be restored and converted into clean-tech treatment plants to provide more secure and cheaper forms of energy.

He referred to the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust in Hampstead that is using combined heat and power and generating direct savings of £1.7m annually as well as displacing over 20% of carbon emissions.

“Moving the heat is just the beginning, there is also a community benefit. Surplus heat from the trust will be exported to 1,500 council home tenants and help to alleviate fuel poverty,” he said.

Denham added that selling surplus heat onto the council would generate around £1M in annual revenue for the trust, an amount “enough to provide an intensive care bed for an additional 588 days.”

MITIE’s carbon care director Mike Sewell said that decentralised, renewable energy offered a great opportunity for NHS sustainability managers.

“At some point the lights will go out – this is where your own generation assets can be extremely helpful,” he argued.

Sewell told delegates that it was crucial to know where their organisation’s true total costs of energy sat, whether in utility, asset maintenance or tax and compliance.

“The problem here is that the budgets for each sit in different departments so a holistic overview is required. Look at entering into energy performance contracts with guarantees with service providers and stakeholders,” Sewell advised.

Maxine Perella

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