Energy and Carbon Management at the University of Nottingham

I recently attended the UI Green Metric conference in the fine surroundings of University College Cork in Ireland. As well as representing the UK participants in the Green Metric I gave a short paper on our experiences of energy and carbon management. The following extracts give a summary of our efforts in a fairly narrow range of projects but we’re making progress. With thanks to my superb energy manager (Bryony Attenborough) and Carbon Manager (Martin Oakes) for the content and the great work they do!

If you’d like the full paper (or the powerpoint slides that accompany it) let me know by emailing sustainability@nottingham.ac.uk

The University of Nottingham developed its first CMP in 2009/10 following the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) guidance on the issue as part of it sustainability strategy. It was approved by the University in December 2010 and updated in July 2016 with the main areas of investment to be centred on:

  1. Improvements in energy efficiency of buildings, including insulation, heating & lighting
  2. More efficient use of existing equipment
  3. Generation of energy from small/medium scale renewable energy systems
  4. Major infrastructure upgrades to replace existing plant to reduce energy cost, carbon emissions while at the same time improving system resilience.

The CMP includes a number of specific investment projects and more generic programmes to deliver CO2 reductions.  These focus on the areas of energy saving and energy efficiency for Scope 1 (predominantly gas combustion in boilers) and Scope 2 (electricity use) emissions.

The CMP provided a baseline of CO2 emissions; sets emission reduction targets; and mapped out a 5 year investment programme implemented to deliver environmental performance improvements and carbon & financial savings[1].
We continue to prioritise the most energy and carbon intensive buildings and achieve a better understanding of what contributes to our significant ‘out of hours’ baseload.  We are continuing the development of energy strategies for each campus with the overall aim of reducing carbon emissions, improving financial sustainability, system resilience and student experience and wherever possible, deliver income generation via government feed in tariffs / renewable heat incentive.

Overall energy and water costs were £12.2 million in 2017/18, an increase of 5% from the previous year.   Both our energy consumption per square metre and per student remained below the Russell Group average. 

Energy consumption, i.e. the total of gas and electricity, increased by 3.4% year on year even though floor area was up by 2.6%, student numbers were up by 2.1%, and the weather was significantly colder, indicating a requirement for 7.7% more heating fuels.  If the effects of the weather and new buildings are removed, then in a like-for-like comparison, consumption for the last year would have been 192,489 MWh, a reduction of 4.0%.

We have seen a steady reduction in our emissions following 8 years of investment in energy saving projects and external factors that are out of our control.  The National Grid has continued to reduce its CO2 emissions associated with power generation through the increasing proportion of renewable energy and gas fired power stations supplying the grid with a corresponding reduction in the use of coal fired plant.

Although there was a large increase in our Estate of almost 108,000m² (20%) since 2009/10, overall ‘Grid’ imported electricity consumption only increased by 7%, this is due to on-site generation from the installation of the 800kW CHP plant at our Sutton Bonington campus and other new plant and equipment installed.

Despite the increase in the floor area of the University estate and additional gas required for the new CHP plant, overall consumption of natural gas actually reduced by 2% since 2009/10 this has been achieved by efficiency gains and new plant and equipment.

Our 2015 Carbon Management Plan target was 51,000 tonnes, a reduction of 17,000 tonnes from our 2009/10 baseline year.  Our total programme savings at the end of 2017/18 stood at 14,034t CO2 per annum from 2009/10.  Since the publication of the CMP in 2010 the University has exceeded its planned growth plan, however carbon emissions have reduced by 21,051t CO2 with as a result of the considered investments made and the wider de-carbonising of power generation supplied to the UK’s National Grid[1].  This will continue to have a significant influence on our performance and ability to meet carbon targets.

The challenge over the period to 2025 and beyond will be to continue to identify and implement cost effective carbon reduction initiatives to achieve:-

·         absolute reductions in emissions

·         offset continued growth in any new buildings

·         offset increased intensive energy consumption from research

It is clear that to achieve our long term targets we need to continue to invest in large and small scale carbon reduction projects to de-carbonise our power and heat supplies to our buildings, as there are currently predominately from the combustion of natural gas.

We have continued to deliver investment in the laboratory fume cupboard efficiency programme with further works to reduce fan speeds with full variable speed extracts to reduce electricity use and, as a consequence, reduce gas from space heating. These systems included PIR occupancy sensors that automatically lower the fume cupboard sash window and reduces fan speed if no one is in front of the cupboard. The means savings are achieved as soon as possible with the added safety benefit a lowered sash provides for other lab users.

The replacement of old plant, both chillers and boilers, has resulted in improved efficiency across the estate and this rolling programme will continue over coming years.

The University’s Medical School has had additional projects involving replacement lighting on F Floor, new controls to existing central extract systems and work on the steam main to reduce significant losses.  Along with the installation of new chillers replacing dependency on steam driven cooling systems which has now delivered the total accumulative carbon savings of 8,695t CO2.

Small and medium scale renewable energy projects are financially supported by UK legislation through initiatives such as the Feed in Tariffs (FITs) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).  These programmes promote widespread uptake and provide income from generation to accredited technologies including photovoltaics (PV), wind, biomass, solar thermal and ground source heat pumps (GSHP).  These installations have saved 191 tonnes of carbon last year by displacing electricity and gas that would have been provided by the National Grid.  A number of sizeable low carbon energy generation schemes have been installed on both the David Ross Sports Village (solar PV and combined heat and power) and the Teaching and Learning Building (solar PV) that are awaiting permission from Western Power for connection to the local grid. These should come on line in 2019 following works to enhance local grid resilience.

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Author: Andy Nolan

An experienced director-level professional with expertise in sustainable development, cities, universities, governance, policy and strategy. 15 years of experience working in the field of sustainability in both the private and public sector. Has worked within a local authority, in multi-authority partnerships locally and nationally. Experience in higher education across four universities in the UK plus representative bodies. Particular areas of interest and expertise include; energy; transport; climate change; waste management; air quality; decentralised energy; education for sustainability; smart cities; knowledge transfer; research.

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