How the University is responding to rising energy prices

The impact of the rising energy costs will add multiple millions to our energy costs over the next two years. To reduce the impact of this, and to support the University’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions, we’ve secured new investment worth £2.8m to rollout a programme of additional energy efficiency measures in the next 12-24 months.

As widely reported, gas prices have risen sharply since the start of the year due to many geopolitical factors. Prices for gas this winter are three times higher than they were this time last year. Because electricity is made from gas, electricity prices are also high.

The University bought nearly all its gas and electricity for this winter ahead of time, though the current prices of the small amounts we still need to buy mean a substantial increase on the previous years’ costs. As time goes on, the prices we pay will continue to rise, with sharp increases due again in 2023. To put that into perspective, this could increase our energy bill by several million pounds, this year and next.

Our aim is to reduce gas consumption by at least 10% and electricity consumption by up to 10%. Actions include control changes, building system optimisation measures and additional metering – a full summary is included below. These actions will cut our carbon emissions by an estimated 8%, and support our longer-term investment program to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Some of the planned actions will also make it easier and cheaper to connect to low carbon sources of heat and electricity later in the decade.

Delivering the Energy Crisis Response Plan requires collaboration across all areas of the University, notably our Building Services, Asset Maintenance, Facility Managers and Procurement teams, as well as academic departments for which measures may cause changes to usual processes.

To find out more about energy and carbon strategy, including our 8 point plan to reduce carbon, visit Energy, carbon and water | Sustainability | University of Bristol

To find out more about how you can help conserve energy both at home and across campus, visit our ‘Be the Change – Water and Energy’ webpage. Be The Change Water and Energy | Sustainability | University of Bristol

A full summary of the actions being undertaken: 

  • Optimising heating, ventilation rates and lighting across the estate to achieve energy savings with due regard for health & safety and the staff and student experience.
  • Replacing some boilers with modular boilers.
  • Replacing central hot water systems with point of use systems.
  • Trialing high-efficiency LED lighting at Old Park Hill.
  • Investigating a centralised cold storage facility, a solar site and different water purification technology.
  • Servicing laboratory systems to ensure efficiency, without, of course, compromising on safety.
  • Communicating to staff and students to realise energy savings in their immediate environment.

Sustainability achievements in 2021

As a University, we’re committed to becoming net-zero carbon by 2030. We’re on a challenging but exciting journey to transform our estate into a beacon of environmental sustainability. 

While we still have a long way to go, it’s important to celebrate the wins along the way and keep everyone up-to-date with the progress being made. Here are just some of our sustainability achievements from the past 12 months: 

1.Upgraded our Energy Management System 

To help us understand and improve energy usage around the campus, we upgraded our Building Energy Management System. These smart control systems help us understand the impact of environmental conditions on different buildings and see where we’re overconsuming, particularly in laboratories and our larger halls of residence.  

2. Helped over 100 staff to buy a new bike  

We launched a new Cycle to Work Scheme in April, offering a wider range of bikes including e-bikes. The increased scheme limit of £2,500 can be used at Halfords, Tredz, and participating independent bike shops, helping even more staff buy a bike to travel to work sustainably.  

3. Secured investment for an electric fleet 

In May, the University allocated a £235,000 investment for new electric vehicles and e-cargo bikes for campus transport operations and electric pool bikes for staff business travel. Once in place, this new electric fleet will improve efficiency and environmental performance in transport operations, helping us align with Bristol’s planned Clean Air Zone, as well as our net-zero target.  

4. Became a Fairtrade University 

The University became a Fairtrade University in June, recognising the work done to embed ethical and sustainable practices in our curriculum, procurement, research and campaigns.    

5. Donated 12.5 tonnes of food to local charities 

In June the University also won a three-star Zero Waste award representing several years of hard work from the University’s catering and sustainability teams. In the last 12 months we donated 12.5 tonnes of food from across the University and Students Union to local charities through the Trussell Trust and FareShare South West, supporting those living in food poverty and reducing methane caused by food waste. 

6. Became the first university in the world to gain 100% Green Lab Certification 

All of the University’s 990 laboratories gained at least a bronze certification in the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF). Hundreds of staff within the STEM community were involved in implementing actions to improve energy efficiency, waste management, sustainable procurement and research quality.   

7. Recycled 14 tonnes of student items through the Bristol Big Give 

Our end-of-term re-use scheme in student accommodation, The Bristol Big Give, reused over 14 tonnes of materials and generated up to £24,000 for local charities, diverting countless unwanted items from landfill and supporting the circular economy.  

8. Installed 80 new recycling facilities 

Over the Summer we partnered with Reworked UK to install over 80 internal recycling facilities for even more single use plastic items including crisp packets, confectionary wrappers, single use non-hazardous PPE such as face masks and Lateral Flow Test kits.  

9. Saved nearly £0.5m through Sustainable Science & Green Labs initiatives 

STEM Laboratories at the University of Bristol account for 40% of our energy and waste budget as well as 32% of our annual water bill, but only occupy 6% of our space. The Sustainable Science & Green Labs initiative in 2020/21 helped make savings of nearly half a million pounds, through energy, water, waste, behaviour change and procurement projects. 

10. Joined IEMA as corporate members  

We’ve taken out corporate membership and gone through a rigorous process to become an Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) approved training centre so we can deliver sustainability skills for managers courses for staff. In addition, 45 students benefitted from free membership for the month of November, giving them access to events, learning resources and networking opportunities.  

11. Reused nearly 8 tonnes of furniture  

We collected and reused furniture from around the campus, with 80% repurposed within the University and the rest going to local schools, and charities such as SOFA Project. This saved the University £43,800 on buying new furniture and 13 tonnes of carbon it would’ve taken to manufacture new items. 

12. Introduced Climate Action Plans 

Each school and Division have been asked to write a plan and to nominate a contact for the University Sustainability team to work with in writing the plans. To date, about 70% of departments have nominated a coordinator, with 50% starting a plan and 25% moving onto implementing actions. We’re currently recruiting a CAP Officer to support with the rollout in the new year.  

On the heels of COP26, engagement and conversation around the topic of sustainability is at an all-time high. Now more than ever we need to work together to build momentum and continue creating change across the University.  

On a smaller scale, you can start to make a positive impact today by joining the 1,800 staff and students taking part in Be the Change. Register here to complete carbon saving activities and start earning points to be in with a chance of winning one of many £10 vouchers up for grabs each month.