In general, companies and organizations reach carbon neutrality through a combination of using and buying renewable energy and buying carbon offsets, which represent investments in projects that reduce emissions. Because some of its hospitals use natural gas for heating and cooling, Kaiser will not be able to entirely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. Kaiser has yet to determine how it plans to offset those emissions.
Hemstreet said there are no up-front costs for Kaiser to purchase the renewable energy. Rather, Kaiser has agreed to buy the output of NextEra’s clean energy projects for the next 20 years, which allows NextEra to obtain the financing to build the projects.
Kaiser operates 39 hospitals and 684 medical offices and has about 12 million members nationwide. About 9 million are in California, with smaller numbers in Washington state, Oregon and the Washington, D.C., area.
Climate change is impacting the health and well-being of individuals and communities, such as higher incidences of asthma during fires, said Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson. Kaiser’s investment in renewable energy is helping prevent climate-related illnesses, he said.
“We occupy over 75 million square feet of space, and the majority of it is in California,” Tyson said. “Given our size and influence, we believe this is part of an organization being responsible.”
Kaiser is not the first health system to announce plans to reach carbon neutrality. In 2014, Gunderson Health System, which operates hospitals and clinics in the Midwest, became the first U.S. health system to produce more energy than it consumes.
Kaiser is part of the Climate Registry, a voluntary organization that sets standards for reporting greenhouse gas figures. The most recent audit of Kaiser’s emissions was done by Lloyd’s Register Quality Assurance in 2014. The next audit will be done in 2020.