From left: Kevin Zacharyasz, director of the OHA Energy & Sustainability Program; Anne Vogel, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and Jon Utech, senior director of sustainability and ESG strategy at Cleveland Clinic and chair of OHA’s Environmental Leadership Council at the annual OHA Energy Program Luncheon in June 2023.

Image courtesy of the Ohio Hospital Association

For 22 years, the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) has committed itself to services and programs focused on energy and sustainability, generating timely opportunities and notable outcomes for its member hospitals. Established in 1915, OHA represents 248 hospitals and 15 health systems throughout Ohio that employ 430,000 Ohioans and contribute $91.7 billion to Ohio’s economy along with $7.8 billion in net community benefit.

Today, OHA’s Energy & Sustainability Program is an award-winning, nationally recognized model that supports Ohio hospitals’ health care missions by offering guidance on cost-effective sustainability improvements, educational events, advocacy and more. Kevin Zacharyasz leads OHA’s Energy & Sustainability Program to ensure all members have access to the resources, financial incentives and educational programs necessary to make informed decisions around energy, sustainability and the environmental impact of their facilities.

OHA offers member hospitals a variety of services including ENERGY STAR® benchmarking and certification, networking opportunities for Ohio’s hospital leaders in the energy and sustainability field, advocacy before utility and environmental regulatory groups, sustainability programs and energy procurement through OHA negotiated rates.

In 2022, Ohio led the country with 19 ENERGY STAR-certified hospitals. ENERGY STAR certification means that a hospital is in the top 25% of similar facilities nationwide in terms of energy efficiency and consumption. There are currently 142 OHA member hospitals participating in the ENERGY STAR benchmarking program and 21 OHA member hospitals participating in the OHA Solutions Energy Procurement Program.

In 2022, participating member hospitals achieved $11.9 million in utility cost savings from OHA’s Energy & Sustainability Program’s services through benchmarking, energy-efficiency support and technical assistance. The savings are comprised of energy-reduction and energy-efficiency projects at hospitals.

Savings achieved at member hospitals through energy-efficiency projects include upgrades to lighting (primarily LEDs) and HVAC, automated controls, use of variable frequency and variable speed drives to control how much power/energy is sent to a particular piece of equipment so it is not operating at 100% consumption throughout the day, right-sizing equipment (retrofitting) and building design. In addition, OHA member hospitals and health systems are exploring renewable energy with examples like solar, combined heat and power, or geothermal sources.

In June 2023, OHA announced a new partnership with CLEAResult, an energy-efficiency and decarbonization solutions provider, to bring Ohio hospitals greater access to sustainability solutions. The partnership expands the association’s Energy & Sustainability program by offering members expert guidance on how to start or advance their facilities’ sustainability goals.

“OHA is committed to helping Ohio hospitals optimize their operations and reduce their energy use,” says Mike Abrams, OHA president and CEO. “Hospitals utilize sustainability and energy-efficiency projects to reduce their utility costs, improve their environmental footprint and reinvest savings into their communities. In 2022, participating member hospitals achieved $11.9 million in utility cost savings from our Energy & Sustainability Program’s services.”

Going beyond energy

To help ensure membership engagement, in 2001, the OHA’s Board of Trustees created a board-level Environmental Leadership Council to provide leadership, support and technical resources to Ohio hospitals in their efforts to reduce waste and prevent pollution. Over the last two years, OHA has grown the program to look holistically at sustainability.

“Our program continues to evolve to meet the needs of our membership,” Zacharyasz says. “We have now expanded the program to look holistically at not only energy but sustainability initiatives as well. One focus of the program is to explore the correlation between health impacts and the environment where we live. We want to ensure that the communities in which our member hospitals serve have access to healthy water, air and land leading to an overall healthy Ohio.”

OHA also utilizes its Environmental Leadership Council comprised of members to provide guidance and leadership for Ohio hospitals and health systems regarding environmental stewardship; sustainability; reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; environmental, social, and governance principles; environmental justice and equity; and improving health outcomes and wellness.

John Palmer, APR, is the director of media and public relations at the Ohio Hospital Association.