EU energy rules could cost NHS over £70 million a year
- Published on Monday, 19 December 2011 12:21
- Posted by Scott Buckler
A proposal for an EU directive designed to encourage countries to reduce their energy consumption is "too rigid and top-heavy" and could cost NHS organisations millions of pounds at a time when the service is already trying to achieve substantial savings
A proposal for an EU directive designed to encourage countries to reduce their energy consumption is "too rigid and top-heavy" and could cost NHS organisations millions of pounds at a time when the service is already trying to achieve substantial savings.
That is the message from the NHS Confederation's European Office, ahead of a vote in the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee on the proposed Energy Efficiency Directive tomorrow (Tuesday).
The directive, which aims to reduce Europe's primary energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2020, is due to come into force in the next two years and contains a number of ambitious measures, notably placing heavy emphasis on the need for public sector bodies to lead by example in reducing their energy consumption. In particular, the directive imposes a requirement on public bodies to renovate three per cent of the floor space of their total building stock to high energy efficiency levels each year.
While the NHS leads the way in many areas of the green agenda, the NHS Confederation's European Office says the directive as proposed will have a major impact on the health service at a time when it is striving to achieve £20billion in savings over the next four years.
The NHS Confederation says the specific requirement of using floor space to help calculate energy reduction targets, rather than looking at buildings as a whole, would limit the ways in which NHS organisations are able to implement energy efficiency measures in their buildings. It may force them to move away from previously planned programmes of work, and develop a piecemeal approach to building renovations, simply to comply with the provisions of this directive.
The NHS Confederation's European Office estimates that this measure could leave the NHS liable for annual costs of more than £70 million in meeting this part of the directive alone. It says that given the NHS' vast, and often Victorian-era estate, the proposal would be especially damaging for acute services, with significant costs incurred to meet high-energy efficient specifications.
Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS Confederation's European Office, said:
"The NHS is fully committed to improving its energy efficiency and has made great progress in recent years to become more sustainable and eco-friendly. As the NHS owns a vast and complex estate, we appreciate the need to modernise our buildings, and consume energy more efficiently.
"But these EU proposals are too rigid and top-heavy. They will create a real headache for organisations that are already trying to find sizeable savings. We really don't want to find ourselves in a scenario where we have to divert money away from patient care to pay for costly building renovations.
"We are currently working with EU decision-makers to achieve more flexibility in how the rules are implemented.
"We need to make this directive about more than simply meeting arbitrary targets which impose additional costs on public services at a time when finances are already under real strain. It should allow public bodies to use feasible and proportionate measures to achieve overall reductions in their levels of energy consumption. "
The NHS Confederation is calling for a more flexible approach to allow NHS trusts to reduce their energy consumption.