HE continues to invest in a sustainable future

Universities see a successful year of energy-efficiency project investment to reduce carbon emissions across their estates

Last year, Salix Finance worked in partnership with almost half of all higher education institutes in England on energy-efficiency programmes, contributing to their carbon reduction strategies.

Higher education institutes in England are working towards ambitious carbon reduction targets for 2020, and, to date, they have made a reduction of over 17% based on a 2005 baseline*. The benefits of making these reductions to carbon footprints are not just environmental; with an annual energy bill of over £350m, a further 30% cut to emissions could reduce bills by over £100m per year. In addition, typical carbon reduction projects can result in improved working and learning environments, reduced ongoing maintenance costs and improved existing building stock.

Energy-efficiency projects form a crucial part of any good strategy for reducing carbon emissions, and last year Salix Finance worked in partnership with almost half of all higher education institutes in England on energy-efficiency programmes contributing to their carbon reduction strategies. These partnerships resulted in the completion of projects supported by over £21m from Salix-managed funding programmes in 2016/17. As well as significant carbon emissions savings, these projects will also see annual savings of £4m annually and £66m over the lifetime of the projects.

A wide variety of projects were completed throughout the year, utilising technologies such as LED lighting, fume cupboard controls, combined heat and power (CHP) and building energy management systems (BEMS). 

Some HEIs have met their targets early; amongst which is the University of Birmingham, who Salix has been working with since 2009. A joint funded Revolving Green Fund, established in conjunction with HEFCE, alongside Salix interest-free loans, has helped the University to fund projects valued at over £4 m. These are generating annual savings of over £1m and 4,200 tonnes of carbon** making a significant contribution to the 21% reduction they have made to their carbon footprint.

Mohammed Shamraze, Energy Engineer, University of Birmingham, said: “Most recently we have installed a second CHP unit in our energy centre, in conjunction with the previously installed CHP, to supply heat to the new sports centre and student residences. We enjoy working closely with Salix and are in the process of installing further energy-efficiency projects, including replacement lighting and controls, free cooling and laboratory equipment.”   

Similarly, the University of Reading, which has also been working with Salix since 2009, has reduced its carbon footprint by 51% since 2005/6*. Over £1.4m of funding from Salix managed programmes has been used for energy-efficiency projects. Most recently, the University used over £600,000 of interest-free financing to install ventilation upgrades to a number of fume cupboards in their laboratories. The University has now reduced the carbon emissions of the fume cupboards by over 72% and are seeing significant financial savings of £160,000 per year, while still retaining the integrity of extraction levels essential for handling hazardous chemicals.

Dan Fernbank, Energy Manager at the University of Reading, said: “Our fume cupboard efficiency programme has delivered some of the best savings we have achieved through our ongoing Carbon Management Programme. The support and funding from Salix Finance was invaluable in making this scheme a reality.” 

Salix has recently worked with HEIs to commit a further £15m to energy-efficiency projects which will complete in the coming year, and it is still taking applications for projects completing this year and beyond. For more information, please visit www.salixfinance.co.uk/loans/HEI

* Based on data from www.hesa.ac.uk/data-and-analysis/providers/estates

** calculated using emissions factors published by government in June 2016 for carbon footprinting purposes (tCO2e)

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