The ACT government has announced that a new $500 million hospital being built in Canberra’s south will be all-electric, ruling out the use of gas for heating and cooling equipment, allowing the hospital to become one of the first entirely powered by renewable energy.
The ACT government has committed to a substantial upgrade of Canberra’s largest hospital ahead of an election scheduled for October, and will use it as an opportunity to make a significant cut to its own greenhouse gas emissions.
The ACT currently sources the equivalent of its annual electricity needs from wind and solar projects, a transition it completed in October last year with the completion of the Hornsdale Stage 3 wind farm in South Australia. This arrangement means that the new hospital, using all-electric plant equipment including heating, cooling and lighting equipment, will be supplied with 100 per cent renewable energy.
The hospital will avoid the use of gas in heating and cooling systems, allowing the facility to contribute to reductions in the ACT’s emissions footprint.
And by committing to build the upgraded Canberra Hospital with all-electric appliances, the hospital can avoid the need to be connected to the mains gas network, helping to cut construction costs and eliminating the need for a fossil fuel supply to the facility.
ACT climate change and sustainability minister Shane Rattenbury says the project would be an ideal example of how climate change considerations can be factored into all government infrastructure decisions, and that this becomes increasingly important when making decisions on infrastructure intended to operate for decades into the future.
“Buildings like these will last for decades to come, and would otherwise be gas-powered – at significant health and financial cost to our community. Gas is a polluting fossil fuel, and the ACT Government has committed to transitioning away from climate-warming energy sources and instead, is fully embracing the renewable energy revolution,” Rattenbury said.
“At a time of climate emergency, every decision made by Governments must consider climate impacts. Across all sectors and across Government, we must act now to put our climate first.”
“Canberrans can be proud that our city is a global climate action leader. This major investment is again proof positive that the ACT is the nation’s climate action capital – leading the way nationally and globally on urgent climate action to build a better future, for all of us.”
As part of the ACT government’s 2019-2025 climate change strategy, the government committed to ensuring that all new government buildings will be all-electric and emissions-free, and includes a commitment to reduce emissions across ACT Health facilities.
Dr Arnagretta Hunter of the Climate Health Alliance welcomed the announcement, adding that many health professionals recognise the impacts that climate change will have on health, and that it was important the health sector played a role in reducing its own contribution to global warming.
“In the ACT we know about the health impacts of climate change because we lived through the horror summer, that Black Summer this year,” Dr Hunter said.
“Each one of us will have been exposed to that hazardous air pollution from the bushfire smoke. We’ve all suffered from extraordinary hot periods and heatwaves, which we’ve not seen previously. And we know that from the climate forecasts, we’re likely to see more of that into the future.”
“We’re going to need to do things differently, we’re going to have to have room for imagination. I think we’ve seen this initiative that’s being taken with this new hospital design,” Hunter added.
It is estimated that the all-electric hospital will help avoid an additional 1,886 tonnes of greenhouse emissions each year, the equivalent of taking 760 cars off the roads.
The announcement follows the ACT government securing a deal to build the territory’s first zero-emissions office building, which will house ACT government employees in the Canberra suburb of Dickson.
The ACT government has committed to the eventual phase-out of gas use in the national capital and provided clearance for the first gas-free suburb to be built in the ACT last year.