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NHS trusts falling behind on decarbonisation targets, despite EV charger rollout

Jordan O'Brien

Jordan O'Brien

Contributing Editor
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NHS Hospital

NHS trusts across the UK are falling behind on their decarbonisation targets, according to data collated by Eaton. 

Through a Freedom of Information request, Eaton contacted 173 NHS Foundation trusts to find out how each trust is progressing towards decarbonisation. After all, achieving net zero is a legally binding target set by the UK Government. 

Questions asked by Eaton include: 

  • Do you have an on-site Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure for staff, patients and the wider community?
  • What, if any, impact do you think Electric Vehicle (EV) charging would have on your existing electrical infrastructure?
  • What other decarbonisation technology have you/will you be adopting in the near future (within the next 5 years)  
  • Is your hospital currently participating in selling energy back to the grid through energy storage technology?
  • Is your NHS trust on track to meet its emissions reduction / decarbonisation targets as part of the overall NHS commitment to achieve a ‘net zero’ national health service?’

Of the 173 NHS trusts contacted, 142 responded to Eaton, with some being more positive about reducing their carbon footprint than others. 

Of those that responded, 51% said that they had installed EV charging infrastructure on-site for their staff, patients and the wider community. A further 43% either plan to install charging facilities on-site within the next five years, or are in the early stages of planning around how best to integrate such capabilities. There were just 6% of NHS trusts that said they had no plans to introduce EV charging at this time. 

However, despite the overwhelming commitment to install electric vehicle chargers, 53% of NHS trusts admitted that they are either behind on decarbonisation targets or do not have a clear set of emissions reduction goals in place. Just 38% of trusts are on track to meet their goals, with a dismal 5% tracking ahead. 

So, what are NHS trusts doing to meet decarbonisation targets? Well, 93% said they had either installed or will be installing upgraded lighting, such as LEDs, while 90% are looking at increasing the use of building control and automation. 69% are turning to insulation upgrades. There was, however, one NHS trust that said that it had no initiatives in place or planned at all.   

Opportunities to expand EV charging infrastructure

When asked about the impact of EV charging infrastructure on existing electrical infrastructure, 53% of NHS trusts flagged that they would need greater electrical capacity, while 41% said it may incur additional energy costs through greater peak demand. Just 24% recognise the potential to create new revenue streams from new charging facilities.

Vehicle to grid (V2G) technologies allow electric vehicles to store energy and discharge it back to the electricity grid when it is most needed, creating a bi-directional relationship that offers up new opportunities for estate and facilities managers. The FOI revealed that just 11% of NHS trusts are currently participating in selling energy back to the grid through energy storage technologies. 23% plan to use energy storage to start selling energy back to the grid in the next five years, but 65% have no plans to do so.  

Marc Gaunt, segment lead, commercial buildings, Eaton, commented, “Concerns around the UK’s lack of EV charging infrastructure have inhibited EV adoption due to range anxiety: the fear that an EV would have insufficient range to reach its destination and leave the driver stranded. Yet EVs and their underlying infrastructure are a vital piece of our route to a low carbon future. EVs offer a cleaner mode of transport while smart charging infrastructure not only powers the future of travel but embeds more flexibility into our energy grid to enable decarbonisation at a national level.

“Estate and facilities managers often consider building energy first when considering decarbonisation, but travel and transport is a vital consideration. NHS trusts are adopting EVCI rapidly and offering staff, patients and visitors a cleaner alternative to significantly lower their total carbon footprint. Public and commercial buildings will need to follow suit. Every building – not just hospitals – will need to play its part if we are to meet the challenges presented by the rapid adoption of EVs and accelerate the UK’s path to a low carbon future.”

The ECA has welcomed the uptake of EVCI by the trusts as a positive move towards net zero carbon, but according to ECA’s Energy advisor Luke Osborne, “We need a coordinated plan for EV charging to help the public sector and the UK to achieve its decarbonisation targets. Hospitals are integral to their communities, so their plans must reach out more widely to include the wider road network.”

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