Carbon and energy reduction

We've reduced CO2 emissions from gas and electricity by 42 per cent since the base year 1990, making progress towards our carbon reduction targets.

Our commitment

We will reduce our carbon emissions and our negative impact on the environment. Signing up to the Climate Emergency in 2019, our ambitious new target is to achieve net zero emissions (from scope 1 and 2) by 2025.

We aim to:

  • achieve net zero emissions (from scope 1 and 2) by 2025
  • compensate for the remaining emissions by instilling low carbon values and habits into staff and students and developing research and low carbon technology solutions
  • improve the energy efficiency of all university buildings and facilities, moving away from fossil fuels.

Our performance

  • We've reduced CO2e emissions from gas and electricity by 48  per cent since the base year 1990.
  • Over the next five years we have a plan in place to reduce our emissions and introduce offsetting for the remaining emissions that we are unable to remove.

Our Building Management System 

Our Building Management System (BMS) controls the mechanical and electrical services in 95 per cent of our campus buildings. It ensures intelligent control of building systems and that there's no energy waste. The BMS, for example, will turn on the boilers according to external temperatures, and can report a fire or a break-in. We have nearly 500 meters on campus, the majority on a half hourly basis, providing information to the BMS.

We also have a system of profile alerts. The system checks consumption against historic profiles, and energy use against BMS models, and creates alerts when an item of plant is not functioning as expected (and using more energy than it should). This enables cost avoidance, identifying and fixing issues promptly and avoiding increases in energy use. In little more than 24 months since installation, this helped to identify and prevent potential increases in consumption of around £300,000. 

Generating energy

In 2012, our Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant was opened. Located in Davy Building, the CHP plant provides heat to 50 per cent of the campus. It integrates the production of usable heat and power in one efficient process, generating electricity whilst capturing usable heat produced during the process.

In conventional electricity production, heat is a wasted by-product. Our CHP plant is typically 30 per cent more efficient than traditional gas boilers. This has saved the University approximately £3,600 a week. Our Marine Station and Derriford Research Facility also have onsite CHP.

What else?

We've installed Inverter Controls on all electric motors on campus, giving a soft start and stop and variable speed control. Inverters allow us to operate motors at optimum performance. This saves energy, improves the power factor (reducing the reactive power required reduces energy use) and improves performance. 

Louvers and fins provide solar shading in the Link, Rolle and Babbage buildings. These reduce heat gain from the sun inside the building, in turn reducing demand for cooling.

We have natural ventilation and night cooling in the Portland Square, Marine and The House buildings, where the buildings are designed to ventilate naturally using convection currents. The large atrium in the Portland Square building allows hot air to rise and draws fresh air into the building without mechanical intervention. And, night time cooling uses the natural ventilation to cool the concrete's thermal mass at night, which then cools the building in the daytime.

We've installed voltage optimisation in the larger buildings around campus, including Portland Square, Roland Levinsky and Nancy Astor. It uses a special transformer to control the reduction in voltage to reduce energy use and power demand. This has the potential to reduce electricity consumption by 8 per cent, which is the equivalent of 573 TCO2e and nearly £100,000.

We use LEDs across most of our campus as they typically use five time less energy than traditional lighting. Any remaining lighting that is not LED is looking to be replaced over time. Also, across campus in most spaces our lighting is controlled by daylight and proximity sensors to ensure they only come on when needed. 

Although technology delivers big energy savings, it's estimated that with your help, behaviour change can deliver a 20 per cent saving in emissions. Please see the Get Involved page to help us with our big goal. 

Although technology delivers big energy savings, it's estimated that with your help, behaviour change can deliver at least a 20 per cent saving in emissions. Please see the Get Involved page to help us with our ambitious target to be net zero by 2025.

It’s hard to visualise how much CO2 is produced and what this looks like, click below to watch our carbon visualisation video from a few years ago which shows what our carbon footprint looks like.

Carbon footprint animation

An animated film illustrating our carbon footprint, and what this looks like against a backdrop of the campus.

We have an annual carbon footprint of around 11,000 TCO2e. What does this look like? We have now reduced this to around 4,600 TCO2e.