Advocate Aurora Health is the latest health system to bet big on renewable energy.
The system intends to operate fully on renewable energy sources by 2030, it announced this week. Advocate Aurora Health runs 27 hospitals and more than 500 outpatient facilities in Wisconsin and Illinois.
Reaching this goal, according to the system, would reduce its carbon emissions by 392,657 metric tons per year, equivalent to removing 84,000 cars from the road each year.
“As the 10th-largest not-for-profit integrated health system in the country, it’s imperative that we help lead the way toward a health environment that can support healthy people,” Mary Larsen, Advocate Aurora Health’s director of environmental affairs and sustainability, said in a statement.
“Transitioning to clean energy reduces air pollution that is responsible for many chronic health conditions and mitigates the health impacts of climate change,” she said.
Other health systems have taken similar pledges. Kaiser Permanente announced in September that it would be carbon neutral by 2020.
Meanwhile, Boston Medical Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology teamed up in 2016 on a wide-ranging renewable energy plan. In 2016, Universal Health Services' George Washington University Hospital joined a purchasing consortium in D.C. aimed at building 52-watt solar capacity to meet an 80% greenhouse gas reduction target by 2040.
Kathy Gerwig, vice president of employee safety, health and wellness for Kaiser and the system’s environmental stewardship officer, told FierceHealthcare in an interview in the fall that the such a shift can have immediate public health benefits.
“It’s an immediate win—this isn’t something that’s going to pay off in 10 or 20 years from now,” she said.
Doctors, medical researchers and industry groups have also become increasingly vocal about the public health risks associated with climate change and pollution.
Advocate Aurora Health said it considers its efforts as part of an overarching response to asthma, which is a common chronic condition in the Midwest. The system will also evaluate any major construction or renovation projects to see where on-site renewable energy could be implemented.
It’s expected to use a combination of on-site, off-site and purchased energy sources for the initiative. Advocate Aurora Health’s hospitals will also focus on being more energy efficient, the system said.
“Clean power produces clean air, and clean air saves lives,” Bill Santulli, chief operating officer, said. “This commitment builds upon our strong track record of leadership in sustainability and environmental stewardship.”