Generating a sustainable future: how will your university look in 10 years?

Universities in the UK have taken significant steps in their sustainability journey through investment in energy efficiency and carbon reduction

A number of universities have now reached their carbon targets in advance and have set new ambitious goals, including becoming carbon neutral in the not so distant future.

The sector has been at the forefront of development across the sustainability agenda and will likely continue to set a leading example moving to the future, which is important when considering the vital role higher education plays in shaping and inspiring the next generation.

Salix Finance have been working in partnership with universities in England for the past 13 years to support them on their journey towards energy efficiency and meeting their carbon reduction targets. Using Salix funding alone, universities have invested over £140m in energy efficiency technologies, creating annual savings of almost £40m on energy bills and 180,000 tonnes to the sector’s carbon footprint. During this time, the technologies installed have often been reflective of wider market trends, with projects such as LED lighting, cooling and pipework insulation remaining popular over the past few years. Technologies such as these have been effective in creating estates which are not only energy efficient but create an enhanced environment for teaching and learning.

Universities across the UK have successfully begun their sustainability journey, understanding that developing larger, more innovative carbon reduction plans are key when looking to build upon the foundations of their energy-efficiency projects. Once an efficient estate has been established, there seems to be a natural movement towards focusing on self-generation. Several years ago, these projects may not have been feasible. Now, as the upfront cost of technologies decreases and tax on energy consumption rises, investment in these technologies is becoming more achievable. Self-generation is an ever more popular area of interest for universities that wish to take the next steps towards their carbon reduction goals.

This is illustrated by Cranfield University which was able to use Salix funding to invest in its own one megawatt solar farm. The university is on track to save £329,108 annually, decrease its greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its reliance on the national grid. The solar array will provide approximately 5% of the electricity required for Cranfield’s main campus. In conjunction with additional LED lighting upgrades, reducing energy use by 636,000 KwH, these technologies will contribute towards the university’s target of reducing its carbon emissions by 50% by 2020. 

In total, Cranfield University is expected to save more than £7.7m over the lifetime of the technologies, as well as reduce its annual carbon footprint by 725 tonnes CO₂e*.

Looking to the future, continued investment in higher education estates will lead the way in the implementation of climate change mitigation. A holistic and dynamic approach to energy efficiency sets an inspiring example for the next generation, in addition to benefiting both the wellbeing of students and staff, Salix can offer support with project development and ensure that investment is available for future projects across the higher education sector. To adapt each application to the needs of an institution, Salix can phase funding, reserve funding a year in advance or aggregate the payback by combining projects with multiple technology types.

*Calculated using emissions factors published by government in 2016 for carbon

For more information, case studies and examples of best practice, visit our website or get in touch with the Universities Team on 020 3102 6900.

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