How hospital’s green energy dream has been hit by years of delays
- Credit: PAGEPIX LTD
A £5million project to get green energy to Ipswich hospital has been hit by years of delays and spiralling costs, this newspaper can today reveal.
In 2013, the hospital announced it would become the first NHS trust in the country to partner with a bio-fuel company and install an environmentally-friendly generator on site to provide it with electricity.
The generator, running on vegetable oil, was meant to start operating in October 2013, supply enough energy to power the whole hospital site and reduce its carbon footprint by 40%. The hospital hoped it would produce so much electricity it could sell that power to the National Grid.
But four years later, with hundreds of thousands of pounds spent, it has only just started operating for a few hours each day.
The company the hospital partnered with, Raygen Energy Ltd, was dissolved a year after the scheme was due to start working.
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A new company called Naturegen Energy was then set up by some of Raygen’s directors and it took over the project.
The hospital said the delays had been caused by factors beyond its control, including the generator’s design, getting the right type of fuel and issues with the setting up of Naturegen.
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To make the project work the hospital also needed to update its electricity network and it ran into further problems changing its switchgear and cabling which added “considerable delay”, a spokesman said.
The generator was meant to run on used cooking oil or vegetable oil but is currently using bio-diesel. The hospital said this was still “environmentally-friendly” and the generator would be adapted to run off used cooking oil in the future.
Naturegen is currently trying to source used cooking oil from suppliers “at the right price” the hospital said, which would take place “shortly”.
The hospital spokesman said the plant has been “successfully running” since the first week of September, but at the moment it only runs during peak periods.
Since it started operating in September, the generator has supplied 636,901 kWh (kilowatt hours) of energy to the hospital, the equivalent of about £95,000 worth of energy. It was meant to generate 12.4 million Kwh a year.
One source said: “It has been a bit of an embarrassment.”
Naturegen has been contacted for comment.
How much has it cost?
It is a simple question but the answer is more complicated.
Since April 2016, the hospital has paid the company which took over the running of the scheme, Naturegen Energy Centre IPS Ltd, almost £1.2m in set-up costs.
The cost of the scheme was initially estimated at £5m in 2013 but that was meant to be footed by the first company involved in it, called Raygen.
The hospital would then buy the energy produced by the generator from Raygen at a cost of about £1m a year.
But the generator has never fully worked and Raygen has been dissolved, meaning it is unclear what the project and delays have cost the hospital - and the taxpayer.
The hospital has also had to pay for its electrical systems to be upgraded as part of the project.
There are also costs around the project such as legal fees with drawing up contracts, and the cost of continuing to pay energy bills for the last four years, when it was meant to use its own energy.