HMH to announce transformative renewable energy initiative that will place 50K solar panels on its 18 hospitals –

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Hackensack Meridian Health will announce later Friday at its flagship hospital the largest solar and battery energy storage system of any not-for-profit health care provider in the country, a $134 million infrastructure project that will eventually install 50,000 solar panels throughout the system’s 18 hospitals.

The 30-year Energy-as-a-Service project, which HMH is undertaking with Louisiana-based Bernhard, one of the country’s largest privately-owned infrastructure firms, will be unveiled at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack.

The project, which will begin immediately, aims to be completed in three years. And it will come at great value: $50 million of the cost will come from tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act, with the rest being absorbed by Bernhard.

When it’s fully functioning, HMH CEO Bob Garrett said, the initiative will result in a 10% reduction in carbon emissions, a 25% decrease in purchased electricity and 33% guaranteed energy savings — all while reaffirming that HMH is a leader in sustainability in all sectors, but, especially, health care.

“This partnership marks a significant milestone in sustainable health care practices and underscores Hackensack Meridian Health’s unwavering commitment to energy resilience and environmental sustainability,” he said.

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Garrett said the benefits of the project on the planet will be extensive, as it addresses an issue that many may not be aware of: The health care industry is one of the greatest emitters of carbon. In its entirety (health systems, providers, pharmaceutical companies) health care is estimated to produce approximately 9% of the nation’s carbon — more than even the aviation industry.

“I don’t think a lot of people appreciate that,” he said. “We need to step up. We need to take the lead and do our part.”

HMH, Garrett said, has a goal to cut its emissions in half by the year 2030 — and be carbon-neutral by the year 2050.

“This partnership with Bernhard is the first big step toward meeting those goals,” he said.

Bernhard CEO Ed Tinsley said the firm is happy to do its part.

“Bernhard is proud to embark on this transformative journey with Hackensack Meridian Health, utilizing our expertise to deliver a turnkey Energy-as-a-Service solution that will not only enhance operational efficiency, but also contribute significantly to environmental sustainability,” he said.

The initiative also was cheered by the state Board of Public Utilities, the Department of Environmental Protection and, of course, Gov. Phil Murphy.

“This partnership puts Hackensack Meridian Health on course to meet critical sustainability and energy resilience goals — complementing the state’s initiatives to invest in renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint,” Murphy said. “I commend both Hackensack Meridian Health and Bernhard for embarking on this important partnership to bolster the energy infrastructure of New Jersey’s health care industry, ensuring hospitals are prepared to continue delivering quality care.”

While the initiative itself was born out of the recovery and transformation committee that HMH formed just months into the pandemic in 2020, it also is the continuation of a more than decadelong emphasis on sustainability the organization has had, according to Jose Lozano, HMH’s chief growth officer.

“Our sustainability commitments really started back in 2012, when HUMC was one of the first hospitals to practice green health,” he said. “I think our sustainability efforts have been strong for over 10 years and propel us forward.”

Those efforts certainly have been recognized.

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Earlier this year, HMH not only had the first hospital to achieve the Joint Commission’s sustainable health care certification — it had the first four: HUMC, Bayshore Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Ocean University Medical Center.

“Being recognized by the Joint Commission certainly is something we take pride in,” Garrett said.

As is this: All of the 50,000 solar panels (enough to cover seven NFL fields) were produced in the U.S.

All of this is enough to make Garrett use his favorite phrase.

“It’s another game-changer,” he said. “We’ve been playing as leader in this space for 10-15 years, but this is probably our biggest leap forward in terms of making a positive impact on climate, on carbon on emissions and really setting the standard for the industry going forward.”

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