As more health systems seek to address social drivers of health, Boston Medical Center Health System (BMCHS) has come up with an innovation. Similar to efforts to prescribe healthful foods, BMCHS has launched a Clean Power Prescription pilot program that enables BMC providers to write patients a prescription for a reduced utility bill using renewable energy.
The program, made possible by the recent installation of solar panels on BMC’s rooftop, will support the physical, economic and environmental health of BMC patients and bring low-income households the benefits of cleaner, less expensive renewable solar power.
“For decades Boston Medical Center Health System has been focused on advancing a model of care that looks holistically at the health of our patients and extends beyond traditional medicine to include critical social factors of health such as inadequate housing, food insecurity, barriers to economic mobility and climate change, all of which disproportionally impacts the communities we serve,” said Alastair Bell, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of BMCHS, in a statement. “Through Clean Power Prescription we will directly support the health of our patients and community while helping to reduce energy-related financial stresses and provide greater peace of mind at home, which we know can support overall wellness in their lives.”
BMC recently installed a 365-kilowatt solar array on the roof of its newly renovated administrative building at 960 Mass Ave., located in an environmental justice zone. Through virtual net metering facilitated by Eversource, an energy provider and partner, and by the SMART program developed by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, BMCHS will allocate energy credits to individual patient homes, which will have a direct reduction on the patient’s electric bills.
During the pilot phase, 80 households with eligible patients in BMC’s Complex Care Management program will receive monthly credits averaging $50 per month, for a total of roughly $600 in savings per household per year. That represents a reduction of approximately 30 percent off the cost of the average Bostonian’s annual electrical bill.
Clean Power Prescription is made possible by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act’s “Low Income Communities Bonus Credit,” a tax credit incentivizing solar projects that direct clean energy to low-income households. To our knowledge, BMCHS is the first healthcare system in the nation to leverage this IRA tax credit to bring renewable power to patients experiencing energy insecurity. Clean Power Prescription serves as a national model of a novel application of the IRA incentives.
“When people can’t afford the cost of running their air conditioner, they can be exposed to extreme heat, or they might under-use treatments like CPAP or nebulizers that rely on electricity,” said Anna Goldman, M.D., M.P.H., M.P.A., in a statement. She is a primary care physician who created and co-founded Clean Power Prescription at BMCHS with Robert Biggio, senior vice president and chief sustainability & real estate officer. “Through this innovative program, we are able to directly improve patients’ health, while providing a healthier environment and economic mobility opportunities for the communities we serve. Our program also helps to spread the benefits of cheaper, less-polluting renewable power more equitably as we work toward decarbonizing our electrical grid.”
BMC is inviting local businesses, real estate holders, and institutions to support Clean Power Prescription by contributing renewable energy credits to its patients. Companies and institutions interested in participating can use existing solar installations or develop new arrays. By contributing at least 50% of the credits generated by an array to Clean Power Prescription, partners may become eligible to receive the Low Income Communities Bonus Credit through the Inflation Reduction Act, which significantly offsets the cost of solar array installation.