UWE has successfully managed to reduce its “energy intensity” – even though its overall use has increased.
So what does that mean? UWE has increased the size of its estate, thereby consuming more energy; however, it has reduced intensity by cutting the consumption of gas or electricity per square metre use. This is an important metric for growing organisations, said Abbie Basketter, UWE’s Carbon Action Manager, during the IWFM South West Region’s first webinar entitled Climate action: carbon literacy.
UWE has managed to cut down its scope 1 and 2 emissions to just 10 per cent of its overall carbon footprint. That means the remaining 90 per cent comes from scope 3 emissions.
Here’s a quick reminder of what the various scopes entail:
Scope 1: Emissions directly related to your business activity – boilers and heating systems, refrigerant gases that might escape from air conditioning and cooling systems, company fleets, etc.
Scope 2: Electricity because it’s used as a direct result of your business activity but those emissions happen off your site as part of the National Grid. Electricity accounts for all of the emissions in scope 2.
Scope 3: Suppliers and consumer activity stemming from your organisation, including procurement, maintenance, waste, employees commuting.
“So while we can think about tackling our electricity and gas use from our building, we absolutely cannot just focus on that area,” Basketter said. “We also have to think about everything we buy, all the travel that we do, including the commuting, all the waste we produce, and all of the refurbishment, maintenance and construction projects.”
Scope 3 emissions are, of course, more difficult to measure. “If you want to go on a journey to net zero you have to get on top of this,” Basketter said. However, this is also where estates and facilities procurement departments can make an impact.
For UWE, almost 50 per cent of purchasing comes from the estates and facilities teams, making them fundamental to reducing scope 3 emissions. “Our activity within the organisation is really significant in terms of the overall carbon footprint of the university,” Basketter explained. She added that many organisations would find their situations similar. “Getting on top of what you're buying, how much you're buying, and what happens to it after you've used it is a really fundamental part of reducing emissions.”
So what can estates and facilities professionals do?
Measure and monitor
The key to successful measuring and monitoring, Basketter explained, is installing energy management software. UWE has been using the software for the past 18 months primarily to track electricity and gas use. In the last academic year, the university kept its use below target.
The software also tracks water use and waste. Tracking water use on campus every half hour for one week showed an anomaly: when everyone should have been sleeping in student accommodation, water use did not drop to zero. The estates and facilities team could quickly identify that there was a water leak. With this tracking capability, Basketter said UWE has saved £140,000 in water costs and 15 tonnes of carbon.
The data allows the UWE team to make better long-term planning decisions and targeted investments and remedial action.
Follow the hierarchy
“It sounds like some kind of weird mantra,” Basketter said, but it’s best to follow the hierarchy. That means instead of trying to solve high emissions through sourcing renewable energy, focus first on reducing consumption, which will immediately decrease emissions.
Once all reduction activities are in place organisations should think about offsetting remaining emissions by restoring natural habitats to try to absorb CO2 “but this is very much at the end of a journey”.
When reductions are unavoidable, such as UWE having to build a new student accommodation building, alternative, low-carbon approaches should be sought. The new building will be constructed according to the Passivhaus standard – which is highly efficient.
Don't forget the obvious
Basketter said the following advice sounds like common sense for those in the profession but it is surprising how often these basic practices are neglected.
- Procure a high-quality BMS and make sure it’s functioning optimally;
- Initiate a fabric improvement programme – walls and windows – to prevent a “leaky” building;
- Regularly check that equipment is running efficiently; and
- Regularly service equipment.
Eventually, though, equipment and assets will need to be replaced. Heating that runs on gas, for example, will need to be changed at some point. UWE is using a combined heat and power plant that runs on gas and feeds heat and electricity to other buildings on the campus.
“We need to make that whole system zero carbon. So we'll be looking at other sources of heat from waste sources, maybe from underground. It's not clear yet but that'll come out in that decarbonisation plan. We know we'll have to remove all our other gas boilers as well and we'll have to replace them with other systems, possibly ground source heat pumps or air source heat pumps. Those kinds of technologies might provide a solution and we're going to try and continue to increase the amount of electricity we generate on site.”
UWE already has solar panels installed across all of its campuses but is thinking about creating a solar farm.
Share the knowledge
“There's no way that a net zero carbon target – or anything like that – can be achieved by one or two individuals,” Basketter argued. “We have to push out the information, push out our knowledge, share our expertise, and try to work with other people to find the solutions.”
Energy management software enables effective data sharing. At UWE, Basketter’s team set up a dashboard for the sports centre so they could see their own data on energy and water use and how it’s changing over time. “We want to empower them to take hold of that and say, ‘OK, this is what's happening, this is what's changed – how could we make it better?’”
In 2022, Basketter will focus on extending this knowledge sharing throughout the university. Estates and IT are the biggest carbon emitters so they’re first on the list, with other departments to follow. “It has to be that way; we can't possibly achieve the savings for everyone by ourselves. That’s just kind of our first steps towards sharing this responsibility with other people so that we can get to net zero in eight years' time.”