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The NHS Decarbonisation Divide

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17.06.2021, 16:04

The NHS Decarbonisation Divide

A recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request confirms half of the UK’s NHS trusts are behind or unsure of decarbonisation targets despite the widespread installation of EV charging infrastructure.


The FoI request by power management company Eaton confirms just over half (51 per cent) of NHS trusts have installed EV Charging Infrastructure (EVCI) on-site for their staff, patients and the wider community. While this is a positive step towards a low-carbon future, a similar proportion (53 per cent) of NHS trusts are either behind on decarbonisation targets or do not have a clear set of emissions reduction goals in place. This new data was obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, issued to 173 NHS Foundation trusts across the UK, with 142 of them responding.   



Gearing up for more EVCI installations  

A further 43 per cent of trusts either plan to install charging facilities on-site within the next five years or are in early stage planning around how best to integrate such capabilities. In fact, just 6 per cent stated they had no plans to introduce EVCI at the moment. This promising trend towards upgrading facilities to meet the public’s changing needs while reducing overall emissions is positive news for consumers thinking about switching to an electric vehicle. 


Falling behind on decarbonisation targets, but measures are in place 

The FoI request revealed that over half (53 per cent) of NHS trusts are currently behind on their decarbonisation targets or do not have clear emissions reduction targets in place. Just two-fifths (38 per cent) are on track to meet their goals while only 5 per cent are tracking ahead at the moment. 


However, when asked about the decarbonisation measures currently in place, the vast majority of NHS trusts reported that they have either already installed, or will be installing, lighting upgrades (93 per cent), increased building control and automation (90 per cent) and upgrades to insulation (69 per cent) within their facilities over the next five years. Only one responding NHS trust reported having no initiatives in place or planned at all.  


More opportunity within EVCI  

When asked about the impact of EVCI on existing electrical infrastructure, half (53 per cent) of NHS trusts flagged that they would need greater electrical capacity, while two thirds (41 per cent) said it may incur additional energy costs through greater peak demand. Just a quarter (24 per cent) recognise the potential to create new revenue streams from new charging facilities. 


Vehicle to grid (V2G) technologies allow electric vehicles to store energy and discharge it back to the electricity grid when it is most needed, creating a bi-directional relationship that offers up new opportunities for estate and facilities managers. The FOI revealed that very few NHS trusts (11 per cent) are currently participating in selling energy back to the grid through energy storage technologies. One fifth (23 per cent) plan to use energy storage to start selling energy back to the grid in the next five years, but two-thirds (65 per cent) have no plans to do so.  


Marc Gaunt, segment lead, commercial buildings, Eaton, comments: “Concerns around the UK’s lack of EV charging infrastructure have inhibited EV adoption due to range anxiety: the fear that an EV would have insufficient range to reach its destination and leave the driver stranded. Yet EVs and their underlying infrastructure are a vital piece of our route to a low carbon future. EVs offer a cleaner mode of transport while smart charging infrastructure not only powers the future of travel but embeds more flexibility into our energy grid to enable decarbonisation at a national level.” 


“Estate and facilities managers often consider building energy first when considering decarbonisation, but travel and transport is a vital consideration. NHS trusts are adopting EVCI rapidly and offering staff, patients and visitors a cleaner alternative to significantly lower their total carbon footprint. Public and commercial buildings will need to follow suit. Every building – not just hospitals – will need to play its part if we are to meet the challenges presented by the rapid adoption of EVs and accelerate the UK’s path to a low carbon future.” 



Research methodology 

Eaton sent the following questions under a Freedom of Information request in February 2021 to 173 NHS trusts across the United Kingdom and received 142 responses:  

1.     Do you have an on-site Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure for staff, patients and the wider community? 

2.     What if any impact do you think Electric Vehicle (EV) charging would have on your existing electrical infrastructure? 

3.     What other decarbonisation technology have you/will you be adopting in the near future (within the next 5 years)  

4.     Is your hospital currently participating in selling energy back to the grid through energy storage technology? 

5.     Is your NHS trust on track to meet its emissions reduction / decarbonisation targets as part of the overall NHS commitment to achieve a ‘net zero’ national health service?


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Staff Reporter covers the latest news, trends and opinion from the facilities management (FM) and corporate real estate (CRE) sectors. The FM market is currently estimated to be worth USD 1 trillion annually and is projected to grow at a compounded annualised rate of approximately 5% between now and 2026.

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