Singapore hospitals draw up plans to meet GreenGov.sg targets and heal earth

Solar panels deployed at Changi General Hospital since 2017 have helped to generate about 50MWh of energy a year. PHOTO: CHANGI GENERAL HOSPITAL

SINGAPORE - Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) has pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. It is the only hospital here to have made this commitment under a campaign by the United Nations to heal the earth, The Straits Times has learnt.

The hospital is one of four in South-east Asia to take part in the UN's Race to Zero campaign, which rallies non-state entities such as companies, financial and educational institutions, and hospitals to commit to halving their emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero goals by 2050.

The campaign's official healthcare partner, non-profit organisation Health Care Without Harm, announced that more than 50 healthcare institutions, which represent more than 11,500 facilities in 21 countries, are part of the UN drive.

This comes a year after the Singapore Government said that it would be greening its public sector by peaking its carbon emissions by around 2025. These measures include deploying solar panels at all premises where feasible, and replacing government vehicles with cleaner energy models.

The Ministry of Health told The Straits Times that notwithstanding the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, public hospitals are drawing up plans and sustainability measures to meet the GreenGov.SG targets where feasible.

Mr Donald Wai, director of hospital planning and infrastructure at KTPH, said solar panels have been installed on the rooftops of the hospital and the adjacent Yishun Community Hospital, producing 456MWh of clean energy each year. This translates to 184.2 tonnes of carbon footprint saved a year, accounting for 1 per cent of the energy needs of the Yishun Health campus, which includes both hospitals.

Mr Wai said there are plans to expand the use of solar power for Yishun Health's facilities, such as to power street lights around Yishun Pond.

Other hospitals told ST they have plans to ramp up solar adoption and are rolling out other initiatives such as converting heat from chillers and setting up electric vehicle (EV) charging points.

At Changi General Hospital (CGH), deploying solar panels at both its medical centre and integrated building since 2017 has helped generate about 50MWh of energy a year.

Its chief operating officer, Ms Sandra Koh, said the current solar energy generated accounts for 1 per cent of the hospital's electricity use annually. It is tapped for non-critical systems such as rooftop lighting and fans.

"We aim to ramp it up to 5 per cent gradually, following our review of the current rooftop spaces for solar energy generation."

Current initiatives will enable the hospital to lower its carbon emissions by 800 tonnes over 25 years, while the increased implementation could see reduction in emissions by about 4,000 tonnes over the same period.

In addition, a heat recovery system has been in place for its hot water supply system since 2002, using waste heat from the air-conditioning system to heat water.

"The hot water is then used for shower facilities and the sterilisation process for central sterile supplies," said Ms Koh. This replaces water heated by the hospital's gas-fired heaters and has led to utilities savings of $300,000 a year.

The hospital has plans to install 10 to 14 EV charging points at the CGH campus carparks, in line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030 measures to increase the adoption rate of such vehicles.

A report released by Health Care Without Harm and independent design firm Arup in April last year found that Singapore's healthcare sector was one of the top carbon emitters in the world, alongside those of countries such as Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the United States.

Ms Jit Sohal, Health Care Without Harm's regional programme manager for climate and health, said that about 92 per cent of the local healthcare sector's climate footprint comes from the use of electricity, gas, heating and cooling systems, waste treatment as well as pharmaceuticals, among others.

The report recommended investments in net-zero emissions buildings and infrastructure, and powering healthcare facilities with electricity generated from renewable sources.

To curb biomedical waste, resources can be used more thoughtfully and wisely - in the way medicine is prescribed, or by replacing anaesthetic gases with less potent ones, for example, said Ms Sonia Roschnik, Health Care Without Harm's global policy director.

Ms Pats Oliva, the organisation's communications manager, said: "The healthcare sector should engage in awareness and policy campaigns to integrate health in climate policies, and vice versa."

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