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In The News

Kaiser Permanente Plans to Buy Half of its Electricity From Renewable Sources, Slash Carbon Footprint

Kaiser Permanente, already a big user and promoter of solar power, has signed deals to obtain half of its electrical power in California beginning in 2016 from renewable sources, and is taking other steps to drastically reduce the health care system's huge carbon footprint.
Kaiser Permanente's facilities around the U.S. release more than 800,000 metric tons of harmful greenhouse gases annually, according to company figures.
If all goes according to plan, officials said Wednesday, the Oakland-based health care giant will reduce its nationwide greenhouse gas emissions by one-third in 2017, compared to 2008 totals. It plans to hit that goal three years earlier than it predicted in 2012, when it aimed to reach that milestone in 2020.
Although it will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the projects, Kaiser could break even over the long run, if California energy prices climb. In any case, the system, which posted $3.1 billion in net income on more than $56 billion in operating revenue last year, thinks the risk is worth taking.
"Climate change isn't a distant threat," Kathy Gerwig, Kaiser's environmental stewardship officer, said in the Feb. 18 statement.
And Kaiser is positioning itself as a national leader, joining forces with groups like Health Care Without Harm and the Rocky Mountain Institute's Business Renewables Center, to move the entire U.S. economy "toward more abundant clean energy solutions."
To meet its renewable energy goals, Kaiser said Wednesday, it has agreed to support the construction and operation of three new renewable energy projects, which cumulatively will cost about $35 million annually.
Those projects, including a new Blythe solar energy plant in Riverside County and wind power from new Altamont Pass wind turbines in Alameda County, will come online in 2016 and generate 590 million kilowatt hours of power a year. That's enough to provide electricity to 82,000 homes for the same period.
Kaiser has a contract with an affiliate of NextEra Energy Resources for the new solar and wind energy, the bulk of which will come from the Blythe facility.
Plans also call for the purchase of 70 megawatts of onsite solar power from rooftop and ground-mounted solar panels at up to 170 Kaiser hospitals and other sites in California, officials said. Construction will start this year and continue through 2016, after Kaiser finishes the process of selecting the sites.
NRG Energy Inc., one of the nation's largest independent power producers, will finance, build, own and operate those on-site solar arrays, distributing electrical power back to Kaiser at a fixed cost over the course of the 20-year deal.
The system's 38 hospitals, more than 600 medical offices and other administrative and supply facilities use roughly 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually and pump more than 800,000 metric tons of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, Kaiser said. But it expects to slash that carbon footprint by 2017 to 617,000 metric tons, a nearly 24 percent reduction.
Earlier steps have already cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent since 2008, officials said. "Replacing fossil fuels as an energy source with green power is the most important action we can take to address the impacts of climate change," said Rame Hemstreet, Kaiser's chief energy officer.
Kaiser already uses solar power at 11 sites in California, Colorado, Hawaii and Oregon, and buys wind power to match electrical use at offices and outpatient clinics in Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as at a large data center in the mid-Atlantic region.
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