Advocate Aurora Health plans to power all of its facilities solely on renewable electricity sources by 2030, following other health systems that want to reduce their environmental footprint and address the public health effects of climate change.
The health system on Wednesday said it will use several approaches to meet its goal, including researching on-site renewable energy production opportunities when they plan and design new construction and renovation projects.
Mary Larsen, director of environmental affairs and sustainability for Advocate Aurora Health, said the health system was currently at about 5% to 10% of its goal. Advocate Aurora operates 27 hospitals and more than 500 outpatient sites in Illinois and Wisconsin.
A couple Advocate Aurora hospitals already have renewable energy building projects in the works, Larsen said. Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., is powered by a geothermal system within an adjacent lake that heats and cools the facility. Aurora Medical Center in Manitowoc County, Wis., is powered by a 256-panel solar array on its roof.
The system also could buy electricity produced from wind and solar power sources in the coming years as both Illinois and Wisconsin increase their investments in sustainable energy. “I think there’s the real possibility even though it seems like a long horizon,” Larson said.
Advocate Aurora officials said reaching 100% reliance on renewable electricity would eliminate the health system’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 392,000 metric tons, which they estimated was equivalent to removing more than 84,000 cars from the road per year.
The move follows similar efforts by a number of health systems to limit their own effects on the environment. An analysis released last April by the Commonwealth Fund stated the U.S. healthcare system as a whole was the seventh-largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world.
Last September, Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente announced it was finalizing efforts for the health system to go mostly carbon-neutral, a plan that calls for having all of its California hospitals 100% reliant on renewable energy sources by 2020.
In 2016, Boston Medical Center entered into a purchasing agreement to construct a 650-acre solar installation in North Carolina that would make the hospital carbon-neutral by 2020.