Corporate social responsibility

Largest ever retrofit of Irish hospital completed

St James’s Hospital in Dublin is to leave the European Union’s emissions trading system (ETS) at the end of this month, following the completion of the largest energy upgrade undertaken in an Irish hospital.

A two-year €15 million retrofit programme completed at the hospital in recent weeks will result in energy and operational savings of at least €26 million over the next 20 years.

“The effect of this is a reduction of almost 6,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere every year. It’s the equivalent of taking almost 1,300 cars off the road,” said Kyle Wylie, facilities engineer at the hospital.

The hospital has installed its own combined heat power plant, which uses a low-temperature hot water system, decommissioned its old steam boilers, and replaced 20,000-odd fluorescent light fittings with energy-efficient LEDs.

The resulting energy reduction means the hospital will pay over its final carbon credits to the ETS at the end of this month, allowing it to exit the scheme. Under the ETS, caps are put on the amount of pollutants such as carbon particular industries can emit annually, with companies or entities such as hospitals required to “buy” credits to offset their excess emissions.


The annual saving of 5,919 tonnes of carbon will allow the hospital to leave the ETS, and puts it on a strong footing towards carbon neutrality.

“The target for carbon neutrality is 2050 but we would be looking to do it well before that,” Mr Wylie said.

“The opportunity was there to take steam out and install a new low-temperature hot water network. That allows us to use really efficient boilers, it will allow us in maybe 10 years’ time to use interesting technologies coming out around hydrogen.”

While steam used to be considered the most effective way of heating buildings spread over a large area, such as hospitals, it is an energy-hungry system, Mr Wylie explained.

“Steam is excellent at transferring energy around the place but it isn’t really compatible with those newer technologies coming out like heat pumps or more efficient boilers.”

The system was installed by energy firm Veolia, which will maintain the facility over the next 20 years as part of the €15 million contract funded by the State-backed Ireland Energy Efficiency Fund.

“The work was really impressive. The environment this was put in was incredibly challenging in the middle of a global pandemic and we have no unplanned down time of any of the 960 beds we have here, no negative impact on surgeries,” Mr Wylie said.

While the contract will deliver €26 million in savings, Mr Wylie said the system will be adaptable to new technologies, and he would hope to exceed this target.

“Obviously the financial savings are important but we were looking at this with climate savings in mind. However, the two go hand in hand, and when you have the crisis we have now with gas prices it emphasises the need to improve on this even further.”


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