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University of Reading – Carbon Reduction Strategy

The University of Reading is following an ambitious pathway of carbon reduction, having set a challenging emissions reduction target of 45% by July 2020, against a 2008/09 baseline. By July 2014 the University had already achieved a 23% reduction, keeping it on track to meet its 2020 goal.

University of Reading

Identifying carbon reduction opportunities

In 2010, the University of Reading designed and implemented a Carbon Management Programme with the assistance of the Carbon Trust. Their motivation to reduce emissions through this programme was partly triggered by the announcement of the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s goal of a sector-wide 43% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, and partly for financial reasons, in recognition of spiralling energy costs. To kick off the programme, a Carbon Management Plan was drawn up, identifying carbon reduction opportunities and setting an overall emissions reduction target of 45% by 2020, with an interim target of 35% by July 2016.

The development of this Carbon Management Plan was essential to making the business case for carbon reduction, identifying that a £3.5m investment in energy efficiency up to July 2016 could yield £18.5m in cumulative savings. It also ensured that senior management bought in to the programme, including endorsement of the programme and the carbon reduction targets by the Vice Chancellor. A Carbon Management Board chaired by the then Deputy Vice Chancellor was established and is supported at implementation level by the University’s Carbon Management Team.

This governance structure has been a key facilitator of progress throughout the programme. Dan Fernbank, Energy Manager at the University of Reading, said, “the governance structure established in the Carbon Management Plan was integral to achieving 23% carbon reduction by July 2014, through ongoing senior management support, a clear decision making process and raising the profile of the programme”. The business case for investment has been regularly reviewed, updated and reported against to track the progress of the programme. To date, £2.35m has been invested and has provided a £8.5m saving for the University and its partners.

Collaborative implementation

The Collaborative Implementation Programme ran from 2012 to 2013, providing workshops, training and bespoke support to implement high-level projects identified in the Carbon Management Plan. This year-long programme helped to explore implementation barriers and provide solutions to overcome them, to help participants learn to solve problems by themselves when implementing carbon reduction projects. The presence of industry experts delivering this training and support gave participants an opportunity to ask direct technical questions, as well as providing them with a better understanding of the considerations for different technologies.

Dan Fernbank said "the Collaborative Implementation Programme really helped to turn high-level ideas into practical solutions, meaning we’ve been able to deliver year-on-year cost and carbon savings."

Broadening the scope

The University found that the key to progression was to keep the scope of projects broad, rather than concentrating on only a few common technologies. This diversity meant that carbon was reduced from all angles, including efficiency improvements, BMS controls and technology upgrades. Example projects include:

  • Insulation programme – plantroom pipe lagging, roof insulation and draught proofing saving 1,100 tCO2 annually
  • IT server upgrades – saving 1,100 tCO2 annually
  • Lighting upgrades – efficient lighting with intelligent sensors – saving 775 tCO2 annually
  • BMS/controls expansion and upgrades – saving 550 tCO2 annually
  • Fume cupboard ventilation upgrades - saving 500 tCO2 annually
  • Heating plant/control upgrades - saving 600 tCO2 annually
  • Ventilation and air conditioning upgrades – saving 400 tCO2 annually

 In addition to these specific interventions, there has been a major programme to replace ageing halls of residence with new facilities, including the refurbishment of the London Road campus and the closure of the Bulmershe campus and two off-campus halls of residence. This led to savings of approximately 4,000 tCO2 annually, whilst simultaneously increasing the total halls of residence bedroom numbers.

Overcoming barriers to success

Prioritising projects across a large estate has been a key challenge throughout the programme. The university lacked comprehensive building-level energy metering at the beginning of the programme, so in 2012 a metering strategy was set out for the estate. Since then, £350,000 has been invested in building-level electrical, heat and water meters in all principal buildings on the estate and an estate-wide energy review was carried out. These initiatives allowed a prioritised programme to be drawn up for both surveying and implementation work, and are also enabling focused behaviour change campaigns by engaging building occupants with the energy use of their buildings.

The business and estate is also constantly evolving, so it has been crucial to understand the potential impacts and benefits of projects and initiatives beyond the direct control of those implementing the Carbon Management Plan. This has led to the development of a ‘Carbon Trajectory’ tool to link in with the University’s existing Carbon Plan monitoring to project emissions each year to 2020.

The future

As the 35% carbon reduction target draws closer, the University of Reading is confident that it is on track. University staff are currently developing more detailed plans for progress to the 45% 2020 target. Major projects in the pipeline include the full implementation and optimisation of a new district heating network, further fume cupboard efficiency work, comprehensive science building energy audits and a large-scale solar PV scheme.

Read more: University of Reading: Carbon Reduction Strategy (PDF)

The University has long been a leader in teaching and research into a more sustainable future. We are proud to be leading by example too in delivering a more sustainable, low carbon estate through the implementation of our Carbon Management Plan.

Dan Fernbank, Energy Manager, University of Reading

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