The University Carbon Reduction Fund (UCRF) was launched by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in August 2017. Managed by Salix Finance, the programme aims to boost investment in energy efficiency across Scotland’s higher education institutions in order to generate a significant reduction in carbon emissions across the sector. Salix Finance provides interest-free funding to the public sector in England, Scotland and Wales, to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and lower energy bills.
The funding was allocated to projects which demonstrated significant carbon savings through innovative project design and technologies. Eleven Scottish universities were awarded a total of £15,710,495 in March 2018, with the first projects completing in early 2019. These measures are estimated to save the Scottish Higher Education sector over 8,800tCO2e annually, which equates to approximately 2-3% of the sectors carbon footprint. This highlights that the commitment to a low-carbon future has been a priority in Scotland’s universities for several years, a matter which has risen to the forefront of the sector with the recent declaration of a climate emergency from the Scottish Government. The benefits of the UCRF are widespread with projects tackling the carbon crisis head-on whilst also improving the student experience through a more sustainable and comfortable environment.
The most popular technology from successful applications was Solar PV, further demonstrating the precedence of the carbon reduction agenda in Scotland’s higher education institutions and indicating the demand to reduce dependency on the grid in the shift to on-site generation. Other popular technologies included LED lighting and heating upgrades. The combination of these measures demonstrates how a holistic approach to estate management can maximise the reduction of both energy use and carbon.
The UCRF has placed Scottish universities at the forefront of the ongoing low-carbon challenge, allowing them to continue to strive towards ambitious net-zero carbon targets and to address the climate emergency.
The Scottish Funding Council and Salix are delighted to continue their partnership through the new Universities for the Future Programme. This programme aims to build upon the success of the UCRF by continuing to tackle key estates challenges, in addition to integrating the student experience into the sectors approach to the climate change agenda. A key focus of projects this year will be to upgrade buildings and estates in preparation for the conversion to low-carbon heating systems.