Advocate Aurora Health plans to power all of its healthcare operations with renewable electricity by 2030, the health system announced Wednesday.
The Downers Grove, Illinois- and Milwaukee-based company said it's the first health system in Illinois to launch such an initiative.
The move continues an ongoing trend by other health systems like Kaiser Permanente toward better energy sources. Hospitals are moving more into renewable energy as a way to save money and as a consideration of their social responsibility.
Advocate Aurora Health, which has 27 hospitals and 500-plus outpatient sites in Wisconsin and Illinois, hopes to reduce its annual carbon dioxide emissions by 392,657 metric tons. That's equal to more than 84,000 passenger cars.
Mary Larsen, director of environmental affairs and sustainability at Advocate Aurora, said in a statement that the 10th largest not-for-profit integrated system must "lead the way toward a healthy environment."
Advocate Aurora said the move goes beyond saving money. Air pollution can exacerbate asthma. Reducing carbon dioxide emissions can help its patients and others living in Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as the nation.
"Transitioning to clean energy reduces air pollution that is responsible for many chronic health conditions and mitigates the health impacts of climate change," Larsen said. "Accelerating our work to make good on this pledge is just another way we will support the health and wellness of the patients and communities we are privileged to serve."
The system said it will likely use a combination of on-site, off-site and purchased renewable electricity to reach its goal. It will also evaluate all of its major construction and renovation projects to make sure on-site renewables are part of the plans whenever possible.
The company is a member of the Health Care Climate Council. That council of more than 17,000 hospitals and health centers in 26 countries has accepted the Health Care Climate Challenge, launched in 2015 at the Paris climate conference as a way for health systems to lead in the area of addressing climate change.
Advocate Aurora is the latest health system to take an active role in environmental initiatives. In September, Kaiser Permanente announced its plans to be carbon neutral in 2020 as part of a larger environmental effort. The Oakland-based system uses more than 1 million megawatts nationally. Kaiser Permanente expects to develop solar and wind farms and one of the largest battery-energy storage systems with NextEra Energy Resource. The project, which is expected to come online in 2020 and 2021, will make the company the largest purchaser of renewable energy in the U.S. healthcare sector, it said.
Last year, a Commonwealth Fund report found that the U.S. healthcare sector accounted for about 10% of the carbon dioxide generated in the U.S. in 2011. That amount of carbon dioxide could account for nearly 200,000 premature deaths connected to air pollution annually in the U.S., according to the report, which suggested health systems can improve health outcomes by reducing emissions.