Decarbonizing Healthcare: New York State and Federal Programs and Initiatives

Hospitals, medical clinics, and other healthcare institutions are essential for maintaining and improving public health and safety. However, their operations come at a significant cost to the environment. Healthcare facilities consume close to 10% of the total energy used in U.S. commercial buildings, according to Practice Greenhealth, a leading membership and networking organization for sustainable healthcare. The average hospital spends more than $8 billion on energy annually. In addition, according to The Lown Institute, the U.S. healthcare system contributes nearly 8.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions, and hospitals make up an estimated 36% of these emissions.

In this blog post, we discuss New York State’s aggressive approach toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the immediate effects that state and federal legislation, mandates, standards, and guidelines will have on the healthcare industry moving forward.


New York State Initiatives for Decarbonization

Passed into law in 2019, the New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or the Climate Act, mandates that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in New York State be reduced to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 85% below 1990 levels by 2050. According to the Final Scoping Plan for the Climate Act, “the 2050 vision for the buildings sector sees 85% of homes and commercial building space state-wide electrified with a diverse mix of energy-efficient heat pump technologies and thermal energy networks.”

To support this initiative, an economy-wide Cap-and-Invest Program was established to create a declining cap on GHG emissions and invest in clean and affordable energy across the state, prioritizing disadvantaged communities. The program will set an annual cap on the GHG pollution emitted in New York State. Those that exceed the cap will be required to purchase or obtain allowances for the emissions associated with their activities. The Climate Investment Account will then direct two-thirds of those proceeds to support the transition to a less carbon-intensive economy.

Additionally, organizations like the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) have launched state-wide programs like the Heat Recovery Program to encourage the inclusion of heat recovery energy conservation measures while retrofitting multifamily, commercial, institutional, industrial, and manufacturing buildings and facilities. The program provides funding for building owners and operators to 1) benchmark current data and explore potential cost-effective measures to recover and reuse heat to reduce total energy consumption and 2) develop a project design to implement a heat recovery system in an existing property.

Furthermore, the New York State Chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recently released “The New York Healthcare Decarbonization Guide: Strategies for Resilient Buildings & Facility Carbon Reduction, ” to which Stark Tech was named a notable contributor. This guide supports healthcare facility directors and other hospital staff in achieving decarbonization efforts. It provides a constructive, 8-step process for hospitals of all types and sizes to develop decarbonization and resiliency initiatives, beginning with designating an initiative leader and ending with measuring and verifying project results.

These programs and initiatives exemplify a significant push towards decarbonization in New York State. Healthcare facilities that embrace these initiatives will ensure a more sustainable future for our planet, create high-quality jobs, improve public health, and ensure an equitable clean energy economy for everyone.


National Organizations Leading the Charge Towards Decarbonization

In addition to state legislation, national organizations like the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have recently released building performance standards recommending decarbonization strategies to reduce GHG emissions. ASHRAE believes that by 2030, the global built environment must at least halve its 2015 GHG emissions. To achieve this, all new buildings must have net zero GHG emissions in operation, widespread energy-efficiency retrofits of existing assets are required, and the embodied carbon of new construction must be reduced by at least 40%. Embodied carbon refers to the amount of GHG emissions associated with the upstream stages of a production’s life (extraction, production, transport, and manufacturing).

Like ASHRAE, the American Society of Healthcare Engineers (ASHE) has developed a Sustainability Roadmap to assist healthcare facilities with implementing sustainability programs and initiatives that integrate environmental stewardship, social equity, and fiduciary responsibility. “How Do I Get Started?” is a daunting question for many facility managers when starting down the sustainability path. This guide provides step-by-step directions for developing and executing a successful sustainability program.

As we continue to navigate the complicated relationship between healthcare and environmental sustainability, the crucial importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the environmental impact of healthcare operations becomes increasingly evident. By embracing and integrating these strategies into everyday practices, healthcare institutions can play a pivotal role in advancing sustainability efforts, ultimately fostering a healthier and more resilient future for all.


Stark Tech is Your Energy Efficiency Partner

At Stark Tech, our mission is clear: to enhance the patient experience with cutting-edge equipment, technologies, and solutions while addressing critical concerns in the healthcare sector, including safety, comfortability, sustainability, and efficiency. We work with our customers to ensure their assets are running at peak condition, reduce downtime and energy waste, and improve the lifespan of their building energy equipment. Our team is committed to help our customers eliminate inefficiencies, reduce carbon emissions, and achieve their sustainability goals.