December 3, 2014

Strong winds deliver power and promise

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States recently expanded its purchase of wind energy, setting the stage for greater reliance on renewable power.

The answer to Kaiser Permanente’s future energy needs may, in fact, be blowing in the wind.

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States recently renewed wind power purchase agreements to match 100 percent of the electricity used annually at the offices and outpatient facilities it owns in Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as at its large Maryland-based data center.

The wind power initiative works through a purchase of Green-e certified renewable energy credits or RECs. To offset greenhouse gas emissions from Kaiser Permanente’s electricity use in a given location, RECs are purchased from an offsite wind farm. Kaiser Permanente thus offsets large quantities of GHG emissions that would otherwise contribute to climate change and the rise of pollution and disease. In 2013, RECs enabled Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic Region to offset 78 percent of its GHG emissions.

The wind power purchasing initiative in Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic States Region will affect its energy use and GHG emissions in two ways:

  • The region will continue to purchase wind RECs that cover 100 percent of the electricity needs of its Maryland and District of Columbia-owned facilities over the next two years. This will avoid roughly 27,000 metric tons of GHG emissions per year for the life of the agreement.
  • Through a separate three-year agreement, the region will purchase wind RECs at a fixed price to cover the entirety of its energy consumption at the Maryland data center. This will avoid an estimated 15,902 metric tons of GHG emissions per year, or 47,707 metric tons for the life of the agreement. The data center earned Energy Star certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year, joining an elite group of data centers with this energy-conscious status.

“As a health care provider, we have an obligation to operate in a manner that supports health in our communities and reduces our environmental footprint,” says Ramé Hemstreet, Kaiser Permanente’s chief energy officer. “By renewing and expanding this wind power purchase agreement, Kaiser Permanente is increasing its investments in cleaner energy. It’s the right thing to do for our communities, and it makes good business sense.”

In 2012, Kaiser Permanente adopted a national sustainable energy policy and launched an ambitious strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 (compared to 2008 levels). Increasing its use of renewable power plays a significant role in this strategy and the organization’s work to meet its 2020 goal.

Kaiser Permanente has installed solar panels at 14 locations at hospitals, medical offices, and other locations, and is pursuing additional clean energy projects that could collectively reduce the organization’s GHG emissions by 30 percent — a full three years ahead of schedule.

The renewal of the wind energy initiative in the Mid-Atlantic States Region is another important piece of the organization’s strategy to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Kaiser Permanente has made significant strides in many other areas of sustainability in the region, including diverting 32 percent of waste from landfills and supporting sustainable food efforts. In October, the organization hosted a pledge-signing event at its Center for Total Health in Washington, D.C. in support of the District of Columbia’s Sustainable D.C. plan. The event brought together 21 local health care organizations and local government officials who pledged to work together to make the District of Columbia the most sustainable city in the United States.