Caring for the environment: Bupa announces commitment to reducing carbon emissions

Bupa invests more than £28.3m in energy-efficiency projects over two years, including CHP, ground and air source heat pumps and LED lighting

Bupa UK has invested £28.3m over the past two years to retrofit energy-efficient and renewable technologies into its healthcare property portfolio.

As a result of an extensive review of energy consumption, and an ongoing commitment to carbon reduction; the health and social care specialist took the opportunity to install solar PV, LED lighting, ground and air source heat pumps and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems to enhance the performance of its residential and nursing homes, offices, hospital and clinics.

With ambitious plans to reduce total carbon emissions globally by 20% by the end of the 2015 against a 2009 baseline, Bupa UK decided to collaborate with Bosch Commercial and Industrial to introduce over 200 bespoke heating systems. Each system installed at 150 locations throughout the UK comprised of a CHP module paired with condensing boilers.

Championing CHP

Optimised for buildings with continuous heating and hot water requirements and high electricity usage; CHP is perfectly suited to a care home consumption pattern.

The systems aim to meet the baseload energy requirements within the care homes, using natural gas to generate electricity with the heat produced as a by product then used for space and hot water heating. Each Bosch 19kWe CHP unit acts as the lead heat source, and for every 56kWh of gas input the unit creates 19kWh electricity and at least 32kWh heat - 36kWh possible with condensing technology.

Generating results

As the electricity produced costs much less than purchasing power from the grid, each new system made an instant impact. The collective annual savings across the 89 sites are set to surpass £1.1m in the first year and have avoided almost five kilo tonnes of carbon emissions. This substantial reduction will vastly improve the environmental impact of Bupa UK by providing over 14MWh of self-generated electricity per year. Using CHP technology will also help to shield Bupa UK from rising energy prices, a cumulative saving of over £7m predicted by 2020.

Having been installed in over 89 Bupa care homes throughout the UK, the benefits of the CHP systems have been felt both by the organisation as well as the individual sites. For example, Summerhill Nursing and Residential Home in Kendal has generated over 78,000 kWh of electricity since installing CHP. This energy would have cost over £8,000 if it had been purchased from the national grid and has avoided 40 tonnes of carbon being released.

Similar savings can be found at Netherton Green Residential and Nursing Home in Dudley. Here, the measures applied by Bupa UK have resulted in a reduced daily grid electricity consumption of 80%. An LED project at the site reduced the electricity usage by 20%, followed by a further drop of more than 50% once the CHP system was installed. A final significant reduction occurred after a Solar PV fitting.

Taking Netherton Green as an example, the daily consumption of electricity at this site now takes the form of only a small amount of grid electricity, with approximately 50%, replaced with self-generated energy. The CHP system produces a continuous energy load, and the solar PV helps to top up the peak hours usage.

Monitoring successes

CHP technology straddles two disciplines, bridging the gap between traditional heating and electrical generation. As such, its implementation is often less mechanical than other systems and one of the potential associated challenges of CHP for Bupa UK was troubleshooting on site. For example, when a module switches off and the heating system’s back-up boilers kick-in automatically, staff on site often remain unaware that the module is no longer in operation. While a secondary heat source may spring into action to avoid loss of heat for residents, the consequence is that no electricity is being generated during that period. This will have a significant impact on the payback period of the CHP module in question.

To remedy this, Bosch installed a remote monitoring BMS system for all 89 sites so that both parties could be notified via text message or email immediately if a CHP module stops working for any reason; enabling them to resolve the issue as promptly as possible.

The BMS system allows Bosch to view how many hours the appliance has run for and even when the next service is due. The manufacturer can also analyse any performance shortfalls – all of which ultimately create opportunities for the CHP module to be repaired pro-actively, rather than in response to a breakdown or for the system to be restarted automatically without the need to send an engineer to site.

As well as the technological challenges presented by such a large CHP project, the number of sites involved also presented various logistical challenges. With nearly 100 different sites and plant rooms to account for- many within Victorian or graded buildings, and each with their own individual space and time limitations, a flexible approach was necessary. Bosch developed a simplified Hydraulic Solution designed to minimise the impact on the site and therefore on residents and staff.

Brita Sread, property director at Bupa UK, said: “We have over 350 properties in the UK, with care homes representing 85% of our energy consumption, so we wanted to make a concerted effort to ensure our existing building stock is performing as energy efficiently as possible.

“Although utilising energy-efficient and renewable technologies is standard practice in new-build properties, we knew that reducing our energy consumption at source across our existing care homes on a mass scale would significantly minimise our environmental impact, though a number of these being of Victorian construction added to this challenge.”

Shaun Mansbridge, business development director at Bosch Commercial and Industrial, added: “Energy efficiency and carbon reduction continue to become more and more prevalent and we are proud to work alongside an organisation that is leading the way in addressing its energy usage on a mass scale in the healthcare sector.

“Bupa UK has taken the refreshing approach of looking at the cost of inaction, rather than looking at the investment cost, and the completion of this project will allow them to operate on a much more sustainable level for years to come.”

Companies