The Victorian government has unveiled a new $26 million funding program to help the state’s hospitals and regional health services install rooftop solar and other energy efficient technologies, to help drive down the health sector’s soaring power costs.
State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio launched the Greener Government Buildings program on Tuesday, with a grant of $5 million for Northern Health to finance green projects on-site.
The program will also analyse hospitals’ energy use and other data to determine those best suited to the installation of rooftop solar panels.
Hospitals will also have the opportunity to bulk buy solar panels through Health Purchasing Victoria to maximise benefits delivered through the initiative.
The new scheme comes just months after Health Purchasing Victoria – the entity responsible for securing bulk power deals for the state’s health sector – wrote to the electricity sector about power price increases, warning it was looking at ways to help health services reduce energy costs.
According to its data, the cost of electricity has almost doubled for some services after a new 24-month contract came into place in July, presenting health services with an estimated $44 million bill increase as part of the new electricity contract.
This makes rooftop solar, and potentially battery storage, are a natural fit for many hospitals and health service centres, with a number of Australian hospitals and health care groups already tapping the resource.
In Canberra, for example, a 500kW solar array was installed last year at Canberra Hospital as part of a government-backed project that will save the facility $490,000 by 2017-18.
And St Vincent’s Health – one of Australia’s largest health and aged care service providers – last year announced plans to install nearly 3MW of solar PV across 16 sites in three states, in one of the nation’s largest commercial solar rollouts to date.
The state government says it expects energy efficiency upgrades to Victorian hospitals funded through the program to save more than $70 million over the lifetime of the investments.
“We’re taking action on climate change and driving down costs for our hospitals and health services,” said minister for health Jill Hennessy, in comments on Tuesday.
“We’re making the investments our hospitals need to keep pace with increasing demand,” she said.
“We are taking action and investing in our hospitals so they can focus on what they do best, which is saving lives and caring for Victorians,” added energy minister D’Ambrosio.
Environmental NGO Friends of the Earth welcomed the new program, which comes in the lead-up to parliamentary debate on the Andrews government’s Victorian Renewable Energy Targets of 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025.
“Investing in solar panels so hospitals can save on power bills shows that renewable energy is a win-win for the community” said Pat Simons, Friends of the Earth’s renewable energy spokesperson.
“Every dollar that solar saves on power bills is one less for the greedy retailers and one more towards patient care,” he said.
Healthy Futures, an organisation of health professionals who support action on climate change also welcomed the state government initiative:
“As health professionals know, prevention is better than cure,” Dr Harry Jennens, Healthy Futures coordinator.
“It’s fantastic to see the state government investing in clean and healthy renewable energy. A 21st Century energy plan will be crucial to protect Victorians from the growing health impacts of climate change,” he said.