Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) As the health care sector increasingly works to reduce its sizeable carbon footprint, a Denver-based kidney care provider is aiming to invest in enough renewable energy to cover all of its global operations after recently hitting that milestone for its North American facilities.
DaVita, headquartered on 16th Street in the Union Station neighborhood, said it has invested in enough renewable power for all its North American operations.
"We are ambitious and purposeful in our approach to environmental stewardship," DaVita CEO Javier Rodriguez said. "As we celebrate this milestone … we're encouraged to continue the work. That's why we're expanding our renewable commitment across our global operations, helping to create healthy communities around the world."
Aiming for 100% renewable energy by 2025
In 2019, DaVita contracted with Massachusetts-based Longroad Energy on construction of a wind farm and a solar farm in Texas. Those farms don’t directly power DaVita’s operations, but the company’s share in the projects through virtual power purchase agreements (PPAs) is expected to generate as much renewable energy annually as the amount of electricity used by DaVita’s North American facilities.
“The energy produced from the wind and solar projects will go onto the grid in Texas,” said DaVita’s chief compliance officer Jim Hearty. “While our centers will continue to draw their power from local sources, we are simply addressing the electricity used across our North American operations today with clean energy.”
DaVita has also been working to reduce the amount of energy it uses. Since 2019, the company has reduced the amount of carbon used in each dialysis treatment by 19 percent compared with 2015 levels. It has installed more than 320 building management systems to optimize energy use and upgraded more than 1,200 dialysis centers with energy efficient LED lighting.
By 2025, DaVita is aiming to power all of its global operations with renewable energy, either with power purchase agreements or onsite renewable energy.
“We’re early in the journey at this point but continually looking at ways to improve our resource use within our centers,” said Hearty, who is also the executive chair of DaVita’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) committee. “If DaVita were to reach this goal it may include similar PPA projects, and exploring how we can build sustainability into the fabric of our physical spaces – like what it would look like to build a net zero dialysis center and bring energy sources like solar panels to facilities where it makes sense.”
The company is also aiming to reduce by half its so-called scope one emissions emanating directly from its own operations as well as indirect scope two emissions from energy purchases by the middle of this decade.
However, a 2019 report from non-profit Health Care Without Harm, found that most emissions from the health care sector come from its supply chain, known as scope three emissions.
“When viewed across all three scopes, more than half of the health sector’s footprint is attributable to energy use, primarily consumption of electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply combined with health sector operational emissions,” the report said.
By 2025, DaVita aims to collaborate with companies that represent 70 percent of scope 3 emissions to commit to setting science-based targets to help prevent the worst effects of climate change, according to the company’s ESG page.
Healthcare sector a major emissions contributor
Statistics on the health care sector’s contribution to U.S. and global emissions vary, but they all suggest that contribution is substantial.
A 2016 study from Northeastern University and Yale School of Medicine researchers found that in 2013 the health care sector accounted for 10% of the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions.
A 2019 report from non-profit Health Care Without Harm found that the global healthcare sector was responsible for 4.4 percent of the world’s net emissions in 2014, equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions from more than 500 coal-fired power plants. Emissions from the sector made up 7.6 percent of the United States’ climate footprint, the report said.
"Each year, the U.S. health care sector contributes 8.5 percent of the nation's greenhouse gasses and 27% of health care emissions worldwide,” Ali Santore, chief advocacy and sustainability officer with Providence, one of the nation’s largest health systems, said in September. “It is therefore imperative that health systems have a seat at the table to discuss solutions to mitigate climate change and reduce the impact of our operations.”
DaVita, others reducing health care sector emissions
DaVita’s renewable energy investments come as other health care providers around the nation aim to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and as investors in companies traded on the stock market, such as DaVita, have been pushing for more environmental progress and accountability from all sorts of companies.
“Investments in energy efficiency as well as cleaner forms of energy, such as wind and solar, are growing in popularity as health care providers seek to reduce emissions,” DaVita said.
In 2016, Boston Medical Center announced an investment in a huge solar farm in North Carolina. Last year, Kaiser Permanente said it had become the first health care system in the nation to achieve carbon-neutral status. Providence has committed to be carbon negative by 2030.