Porter Medical Center issues energy challenge to workers

MIDDLEBURY — Porter Medical Center will enlist the help of its more than 600 employees in finding ways to help reduce its annual energy bill of almost $1 million.
At issue is Porter’s participation in a new Efficiency Vermont program that will feature some on-site workshops on what workers can do to reduce power consumption. This will culminate in a contest for the Porter employees who submit the most creative and practical energy-savings tips. Those who submit the top three ideas, as judged by Efficiency Vermont, will receive $50 gift cards to local stores.
“This is a way to harness the power of employees to provide managers and the organization with ideas and suggestions to make improvements,” said Porter spokesman Ron Hallman. “What we are going to try to promote is for them to make suggestions that encompass behavioral modifications where we as employees may be inadvertently wasting electricity or fuel oil.”
The suggestions, Hallman added, could lead to energy efficiency upgrades — such as replacing any porous windows and/or doors — at the Porter campus, which includes the hospital and Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center.
Efficiency Vermont provides technical assistance, rebates and other financial incentives to help Vermont households and businesses reduce their energy costs with energy-efficient equipment, lighting and approaches to construction and major renovation.
Kelly Lucci, public affairs and communications manager for Efficiency Vermont, said Porter is the first hospital it has enlisted in this new outreach program that has an employee contest feature. The program will officially launch at Porter on Nov. 9, when Efficiency Vermont officials will lead three workshops to give workers energy-saving tips that they can use around home as well as in the workplace.
“We are looking to customize these efforts with each of the employers we work with,” Lucci said.
“This is part of a greater effort to broaden our engagement with these large companies we work with.”
Hallman and Lucci noted the program’s benefits will be threefold: It will help the hospital save money, help employees reduce energy expenses on the home front, and reduce the medical center’s carbon footprint.
Porter has already been working proactively to reduce its energy use. To that end, Hallman said Porter:
•  Will soon replace all of its external parking and building lights with energy-efficient bulbs at a total cost of $14,000, defrayed in part through a $10,000 grant from Efficiency Vermont. The net cost to Porter ($4,000) will be paid back in one year as a result of reduced energy consumption, Hallman noted.
•  Is using “Energy Management System” software that allows its Plant Operations Department to monitor and control all of Porter’s non-clinical systems remotely so that officials can turn equipment on or off based on need.
•  Has replaced the old windows in the 1929 business office building with energy-efficient windows.
Still, Porter officials acknowledge more can be done to reduce energy costs on campus. Hallman placed fiscal year 2012 energy (heating and electricity) expenses at $235,700 for Helen Porter nursing home and $735,000 for the hospital, making for a total of $970,700.
“We understand that we are always going to be a major consumer of energy, but even if we can save 5 percent or 10 percent, given (the budget), that’s serious money,” Hallman said.
Employees will be able to submit entries to the contest online. They will have roughly one month to submit their best energy conservation proposals, according to Hallman. The hospital will work to implement the best suggestions during the months to come.
“We are going to try and make it as easy for employees as possible to go on their computer … offer ideas, and submit it,” Hallman said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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