Use and waste less energy – reducing consumption ultimately reduces costs

Everybody living and working within a university can have a positive impact on carbon emissions

2050. 2030. Energy-efficiency. Net-zero. Carbon-neutral. Positive/negative emissions. Clean growth. Climate-concern/change/emergency.

If you are concerned that words of this sort have been part of the energy vocabulary since the 1980s, and we have watched the environmental impact increase, while global authorities have been slow to grasp the nettle – then you may agree that these terms are often interchangeable with shifts in definition, causing talk around energy to appear conflicting and confusing.

The Climate Change Act, passed in 2008, committed the UK to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% before 2050, when compared with 1990 levels.

The UK played a central role in securing the 2015 Paris Agreement in which 195 countries agreed on national targets to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees. The actions and investments that will be needed to meet the Paris commitments will hopefully ensure a shift to clean growth and, will be at the forefront of policy and economic decisions made, by governments and businesses, in the coming decades.

The commitment from the commercial sector, with a plethora of strategies and policies of intent to beat the 2050 deadline, is positive. Universities are at the forefront of these, promoting their carbon credentials and initiatives towards their net-zero target.

By declaring a climate emergency, universities are bringing into sharp focus the crisis being faced. They are sending clear messages that students and staff must take radical action in university behaviour, but they are also acting as a consolidated group, applying pressure on government to act decisively and urgently.

Heating of homes and businesses accounts for almost a third of UK emissions. Cutting emissions in this area will benefit us all through reduced energy bills and improved air quality, while contributing to global sustainability.

A determined effort to use energy efficiently, up-skill estates teams, and foster energy-aware practices by all that live and work within universities, will make an instant impact on consumption. The focus being on the part that each institution plays in reducing their own use of carbon, thus contributing to local, national, and international responses. Fortuitously, the by-product – that was once the main attraction – will be reduced energy bills.


The UK’s university estate accommodates a similar number of students to the population of Sheffield and its environs (close to 700,000). Not an insignificant figure when one considers the heating of that many rooms.

Energy bills are determined by two distinct factors – price and consumption. Both of which, with some effort, can be reduced. Price is often the easiest target for reducing spend. Calculating use, touting this figure around energy suppliers, and then negotiating the best price, is the conventional approach. But price only affects the organisation’s outgoings. It doesn’t consider any of the other issues outlined earlier, particularly the amount of energy that is used.

The gamechanger is when consumption becomes the focus of attention. Historically it has been difficult to control consumption particularly in larger premises such as student accommodation. Human nature is such that people become blind to notices suggesting they turn lights and heating off when they leave the building!

Reduction in energy use will cut carbon; it will cut emission of greenhouse gases; it will reduce stress on energy production and transmission; and it will reduce the energy bill.

Prefect Controls are at the forefront of enabling energy managers to reduce consumption by only using energy when it is required. Every component of Irus, their central control system, is designed to cut unnecessary use. Rooms are kept at a comfortable temperature while the system is aware that demand is present, and if a boost in temperature is desired this is at the fingertips of the occupant. However, if rooms are vacated shortly after a boost has been requested, a room is empty for longer periods or a window is opened, then the system reduces heat input – saving consumption.

Combine this local activity with procurement of less carbon-intensive power such as wind and solar and the savings begin to add up.

In simple terms we must use and waste less energy, because if we don’t the price will be too high.

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