Gundersen Health System reaches energy independence goal
Produced more energy than the health system consumed
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Gundersen Health System reached its energy independence goal. It’s the first health system in the nation to attain the distinction.
“This is a terrific day when you set a goal that nobody else has done,” said Gundersen CEO Jeff Thompson, “It distinguishes La Crosse and our region as somebody that’s way out ahead of the game.”
October 14 marked the first day that Gundersen produced more energy than it consumed.
In 2008, Thompson set a goal for the Health System to reduce consumption by improving efficiency and creating cleaner energy.
Gundersen worked with regional partners in energy creation, including dairy digesters, wind turbines, and a landfill gas-to-energy initiative at the La Crosse County Landfill. They also had two local projects, which included geothermal energy and a biomass boiler.
“We set our sights on a goal that had never been achieved, and while we are a national leader, we still have work to do,” said Jeff Rich, the executive director of Envision, Gundersen’s energy subsidiary. “We have crossed the threshold to energy independence. It’s like breaking the sound barrier. We were the first to do it and it’s pretty astounding. Our next chapter will be to turn the days into months and years.”
“It’s an ambitious goal, I don’t think anybody has ever done that, particularly in the health industry,” said Mike Herro from Xcel Energy.
Xcel has worked with Gundersen on some of its energy projects, they say while Gundersen will see most of the immediate financial effects, the entire community benefits when the demand for energy drops. “What they’re doing will benefit customers in the long run, and other customers too that do conservation efforts can benefit so we don’t have to build so much generation and transmission,” said Herro.
Thompson said the System’s energy independence helps protect them from passing rising energy costs onto the consumer.
He also says the company’s goal was to help the environment AND save money. “That was really our format, we said we will make this good for the local economy and for Gundersen’s economy, and for the health of the community,” said Thompson.
The Health System said hospitals typically use two and a half times more energy than commercial buildings.
For more information on Gundersen’s sustainability efforts, visit gundersenenvision.org.