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Reduced thermal loss and improved Reduced thermal loss and improved PCFSEP/Desislava Dzurkova

Energy Efficiency Brings Health Benefits

In Gabrovo, Bulgaria, a USAID project focused on upgrading heating, ventilation, and energy management control systems, as well as lighting, windows, water heating equipment, and combined heat and power (cogeneration) systems. While the primary focus of the project was to demonstrate energy and financial savings to local officials, the project also yielded important health benefits.

The USAID project team worked with local energy engineering contractors in Bulgaria to collect baseline data, conduct an energy audit, design and specify the equipment, and procure and install equipment. The team found many opportunities to reduce thermal loss in the buildings, to reduce boiler plant losses, and to improve the ventilation system. The specific energy conservation measures sealed the building envelope, improved the heating system, and included an innovative heat recovery system.

Performance monitoring throughout the heating season confirmed the expected energy savings: a 20% reduction in the hospital's heating costs (or total savings of about $94/day), with a simple payback of 3.8 years. Due to the heat recovery system, which maintained very good air quality standards in the surgery rooms, the hospital reported a significant reduction in secondary infection rates, which in turn led to shorter hospital stays, thereby lowering health care costs. Thanks to this project, the hospital was able to use its savings from reduced energy purchases to buy medicine and equipment, to implement other energy efficiency projects, and to pay off its debt to the municipality. The municipality of Gabrovo was very impressed with the results and decided to use its share of the savings to finance additional energy efficiency projects. In an unanticipated indirect effect, the hospital director who was the project counterpart was subsequently elected mayor. Several other municipalities later implemented similar projects using the shared savings approach.

The project demonstrated to local mayors and hospital administrators the financial and health benefits possible through energy savings. The average project cost was $140,000, and average project payback was 2.9 years. The success of the project led to further energy efficiency investments by the hospital, and similar projects in the municipalities of Plovdiv, Stara Zagora and Varna. While the USAID team expected to see some direct health impacts since the heat recovery unit was installed to serve the surgery rooms, we were surprised to see the impacts beyond the actual surgery rooms - specifically, patients experienced lower rates of secondary infections (due to improved ventilation) and lower need for antibiotics to fight such infections.

For more information, contact Ira Birnbaum, USAID/Bureau for Europe & Eurasia, and Robert Russo, EnCon Services International.

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