UNMC, Nebraska Medicine reduce energy use by 25 percent

by Karen Burbach
April 22, 2016

Image with file name: Aerial_1_UNMC_NM.JPG

Imagine cutting 25 percent energy consumption from your home. It's a tall order for a residence, but even more so when your 'home' spans more than 100 acres.

That's why the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and its primary clinical partner, Nebraska Medicine, are proud of having reached its energy reduction goals.

The medical center's main campus at 42nd and Emile streets used 25 percent less energy in 2015 than it did five years ago, despite adding more square footage to campus. This conservatively equates to more than $10 million in money the medical center would have had to spend, said Chad Doane, director of strategic energy initiatives at UNMC.

"I've always said that academic health science centers should be leading the way in energy conservation," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. "We're especially proud of meeting this energy reduction goal. Not only does it show strong stewardship of taxpayer dollars, it also has a positive effect on the planet, people and ultimately everyone's health." Omaha Public Power District CEO Tim Burke praised the campus for its work.

"UNMC has been a regional leader in energy efficiency and demand reduction as evidenced by their 25.6 percent energy reduction over the past five years," Burke said. "These kinds of reductions and initiatives do not come by accident. They are part of a strategic focus and great examples of how to be great stewards of our resources in Nebraska."

UNMC and Nebraska Medicine strategically reached its goal through a series of actions including: • Implementing a new building control system providing greater control of both temperatures in spaces and airflow. • Making sure all new UNMC construction is LEED-certifiable (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), meaning the facility uses best-in-class building strategies and practices. • Upgrading Central Utility Plant equipment to create greater efficiencies. • Increased employee engagement and energy curtailment practices, which included turning off lights where they weren't needed, working in reduced lighting when possible, closing mini-blinds and curtains to reduce solar gain, shutting fume hood sashes when not in use, replacing aging equipment with more efficient models, and turning off and unplugging electrical equipment when not in use.

The reduction also is noteworthy because the campus reached its goals, despite growing the equivalent of 75 average-size homes.

In having reached its goal of a 25 percent reduction in energy consumption, the medical center now wants to achieve an additional 10 percent by 2023.

Over the past five years, the medical center also reduced its peak electrical by 28 percent from 2010. Peak electricity use is the maximum amount of electricity needed at any given time. Reducing peak electricity use is related to consumption, but it also reduces stress on the overall system on hot and humid days. This is important because the amount used is tied to the med center's future electricity rate (i.e. if peak goes up, so does electrical rate, even if consumption goes down).

That's good news to the community, Doane said, because less energy used by UNMC/Nebraska Medicine provides more energy for OPPD customers and reduces the need to increase their capacity to meet new growth.

There also are related health benefits, Doane said, noting that less energy used means less coal burned, which translates to improved air quality. And, that's good news to anyone who has or knows someone with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic bronchitis.

"We commend UNMC and Nebraska Medicine on their leadership for implementing sustainable solutions in our community," said Metropolitan Utilities District President Scott Keep. "We understand the importance of improving efficiencies and lowering emissions in our homes, industries and hospitals. The medical center has made tremendous strides in the past five years."

Keep specifically noted the medical center's success in reducing natural gas and water consumption, resulting in a 20 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions and a 23 percent decrease in domestic water consumption.

UNMC's domestic water consumption went from a baseline of 225 million gallons per year to 173.5 million gallons per year, or 51.6 million gallons less in five years. In reality, the total amount saved is more than that based on a cumulative effect of gallons saved.

We are Nebraska Medicine and UNMC. Our mission is to lead the world in transforming lives to create a healthy future for all individuals and communities through premier educational programs, innovative research and extraordinary patient care.

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