Case study 3
Industry vertical: Hospitals
Case in focus: AMRI
Hospitals consume large quantity of electricity for operations like cleaning and washing as well as for critical oxygen supply and other intense workloads. Hospitals across urban and rural areas are primarily dependent on grid power. Hospitals provide essential healthcare services that require 24x7 uninterrupted power supply.
Unplanned outages, natural calamities, and supply interruptions are a nightmare for the healthcare industry. Sudden interruptions can stop critical machines including oxygen supplies, thus impacting patient care. Many of us are familiar with heart-breaking stories of lives lost to such incidents in India. That is not all. In rural India, erratic power supply impacts the overall operations of the hospital for days together. This is a major challenge faced by the healthcare segment today.
Currently, the healthcare segment is majorly dependent on diesel-based gensets as an alternative source of energy. For example, in some areas of Northeast India, where availability of diesel is a challenge, healthcare providers are looking at renewables as a sustainable source of electricity.
Solar energy is a solution to such situations. The most advantageous property of solar energy is that it can be set up as a standalone power supply unit with battery storage, or as a micro-grid supplying to a marked geographical area. In the above stated scenario, it is advisable to set it up as a standalone unit supplying to the hospital, preferably inside the hospital premises itself.
However, industry experts point out to several challenges associated with installing solar power such as lack of rooftop space free of shadow, weather, initial investment cost, lack of awareness on the benefits of solar installation, structural changes required for installations, segregation of critical service from direct supply of solar energy, battery backup etc. As per an industry expert in the hospital sector, at least 20% of the diesel consumption can be reduced with solar installations immediately. That is significant, compared to the annual diesel expenses of hospitals. The calculation is as follows:
100 sq ft of shadow-free rooftop of a hospital can generate 4 kWh of power. The more the rooftop area available, the higher quantity of energy generation. However, considering the cost of the alternative source and the constraints attached to it, solar energy is the best solution.
What makes solar a more attractive proposition are the quick technological advancements in the segment, easy availability, subsidy support, easy installation, limited maintenance, and conducive weather conditions in large parts of the country.
Many hospitals across India have installed rooftop solar anywhere between 100 kWh to 500 kWh and above. Of these, a majority has routed solar energy through battery back-up system to avoid interruption in the power supply. Many others are using direct solar power for hot water and lighting purpose.
How do we address the key challenges of solar adoption by hospitals as industry vertical? The answer is platforms like The smarter E India / Intersolar India 2022 exhibition and conference, where industry experts, technology suppliers, and financiers will discuss the critical issues under one roof. Scheduled from 7-9 December 2022 at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, this expo offers a fantastic opportunity for hospitals to visit and understand the details of solar power installation.
All agree that, barring the initial cost involved, solar proves to be cost effective with multiple benefits in the long run. Thus, renewable energy is slowly becoming a major part of many hospitals’ investment plans. Interestingly, many hospitals have allocated 20-30 percent for renewable energy adoption in their annual budget. This is a welcome change in the true sense.
AMRI banks on solar
AMRI Hospitals Ltd, one of the premier private healthcare providers in Eastern India, is relying on solar energy to enhance operations, reduce cost and meet the UN SDG goals for the healthcare segment.
Affirming the same, Mr. Rupak Barua, Director & Group CEO, AMRI Hospitals, states, “Renewable energy is a major part of AMRI Hospitals’ plans, and the Group has been working towards reducing its carbon footprints since hospitals generally tend to generate a lot of biomedical and other forms of solid waste.”
AMRI Hospitals started its journey by integrating solar power into its power grid, with the aim of reducing dependency on conventional power sources over a period of time, Mr. Barua notes.
After testing various technologies and meeting EPCs and component manufacturers, the healthcare provider decided to adopt solar power. Easy availability and functionality coupled with the presence of ample sunlight throughout the year made the decision easy. Rainwater harvesting and wastewater recycling are also part of the system.
The endeavors bore fruit for AMRI which received the ‘cGreen OT’ certification for hospitals in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. “We ensure that anesthetics used during surgeries and procedures are environment-friendly and do not add to the carbon footprint,” he says.
Further, AMRI is taking slow but steady steps to ensure its carbon footprint can be reduced by 2027, using the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other climate policies as route maps. “For example, we started working towards paperless offices a few years ago and digitized much of our paperwork, including bills, investigation reports, and medical histories of patients.”
The RE journey at AMRI is bearing fruit. As of now, its dependence on renewable energy stands at around 6 percent. It is taking the necessary steps to increase it over the next five years to around 30-40 percent.
The solar strategy:
The first move by AMRI was to replace archaic infrastructure and make some structural changes so that the hospital buildings can be adapted to these technologies.
Mr. Barua says, “While the hospitals are connected to a grid that produces electricity using thermal power, we use solar panels to provide back-up support to the UPS system at our hospitals in Kolkata, and at our Bhubaneswar hospital the same is used to produce hot water for patients.”
The challenges were taken into consideration looking at long term benefits. Experts consulted by AMRI assured that even though the cost of adoption and installation costs are high, the lasting benefits would help in meeting long term goals of reducing carbon footprint.
As of now, the budget outlay for renewable energy initiatives stands at around 6 percent of the annual expenditure plan, which is expected to go up to 20 percent in the 2027-28 budgetary allocation.
As part of its future plans, AMRI has decided to extend the available technologies of renewable energy and carbon footprint reduction to all its four hospitals in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar. While one unit at Kolkata and Bhubaneswar each already have active renewable energy projects, the same facilities will be extended to the other two units as well so that the Group’s overall carbon footprint can be reduced. The Group has set 2027 as the target for reducing it to negligible levels. AMRI has also targeted to turn into a totally paperless workplace by 2027.
“Renewable energy is a major part of AMRI Hospital’s plans and the Group has been working towards reducing its carbon footprint,” says Mr. Rupak Barua, Director & Group CEO
Info Blurb: Although most existing renewable energy technologies are quite expensive, they help save costs to a great extent and reduce dependence on outside agencies in the long run.
Box: Key advantages of installing rooftop solar units
(a) Easy availability of technologies to reduce carbon footprint
(b) Long term cost savings
(c) Overall stress on being a more socially responsible corporate citizen.
Box: Main challenges