Five top energy efficient technologies helping universities to save money on energy bills

Submitted by Salix on Mon, 26/03/2018 - 15:31

Salix Finance has worked closely with many universities, providing interest-free Government finance for energy efficiency projects in line with their carbon management programmes as they seek to reduce bills and meet carbon targets. Aside from the financial and carbon savings, these energy efficiency projects have also benefited the learning and working environments around estates, reduced maintenance costs, and improved the overall standard of estates. Below we have highlighted 5 examples of energy efficiency projects which have proven to be effective ways of saving money and reducing carbon emissions across university estates. 


LED Lighting 

Lighting accounts for a significant proportion of all the electricity consumed across a University estate. Upgrading older lighting by installing LED lamps and fitting controls to minimise will result in significant financial and carbon saving, as well as reducing maintenance requirements due to the longer life of the LED lamps. On average, LED lighting upgrade projects financed by Salix have a payback of just under 5 years. Over the past 5 years, Salix Finance has funded over 700 university LED lighting projects worth almost £25 million, and universities are working with Salix on large scale programmes to upgrade all their lighting to maximise their savings. Canterbury Christ Church University have used Salix Finance interest-free loans over several years to complete major lighting upgrades across their whole estate. This work includes a recent £140,000 project to convert classroom and corridor lighting. This investment paid for itself in just over 4 years, with estimated energy bill savings of £32,660 annually as well as carbon savings of 125 tonnes per annum. 


Laboratory Upgrades 

Laboratories used for teaching and research are very energy intensive, and a single fume cupboard can consume as much as 1-3 times that of an average home in a year. However, there is significant potential for carbon and financial savings to be made by upgrading the equipment and services within these areas, with examples including high-efficiency fume cupboards, drying cabinets, growth cabinets and freezers. The University of Reading achieved a 72% reduction to the energy consumption of their fume cupboards in their laboratories by improving ventilation controls. Using £605,000 of interest-free finance and £405,000 of their own funding, the project for itself in just over 3 years and is achieving annual financial savings of over £300,000. The energy wastage from these fume cupboards was previously underestimated, meaning the savings were much greater than predicted. 


“Our fume cupboard efficiency programme has delivered some of the best savings we have achieved through our ongoing Carbon Management Programme. The support and funding from Salix Finance was invaluable in making this scheme a reality, and in providing university decision makers with assurance that the anticipated financial returns would be delivered.” Dan Fernbank, Energy Manager at The University of Reading. 


Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) 

BEMS provide the central point of control for the operation of building services throughout an estate. To a major extent, BEMS are used to control heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), but can be extended to include all building support services. They also provide a way to monitor and rapidly adjust equipment, improving the reliability and performance of buildings and delivering substantial savings. Savings of 10% can typically be realised in total building energy consumption and carbon footprint with proactive management and continuous improvement to a BEMS system. In addition, the financial savings from reduced maintenance costs and improved plant longevity are often even more substantial than the energy efficiency gains. Bath Spa University recently completed a project installing building energy controls to a new accommodation building. This £187,000 project will enable monitoring on an individual room basis and increase resilience of the electrical infrastructure in the building. The direct energy cost savings are estimated to save £31,200 whilst the carbon savings are calculated to be over 100 tonnes annually. 


Combined Heat and Power (CHP) 

CHP is an efficient method of generating heat and power across one or more buildings and can reduce energy use by up to 30%. Universities’ year round electrical and heating base load allows for longer CHP running hours which can maximise the return on investment. The University of Liverpool completed the largest CHP project supported by Salix funding in 2014. Using an interest-free loan of £6.1 million, they installed two 2 MWe CHP engines into a disused Grade II listed boiler house. The engines generate 22 GWH of electricity each year, with a net reduction to energy bills of over £1.5 million.


“Our CHP engines have delivered fantastic financial and carbon savings for the University. Without the support and funding from Salix Finance we would have been unable to implement such a large-scale project. We look forward to continuing to work with Salix on future energy efficiency projects to achieve the objectives in our Carbon Management Plan.” Peter Birch, Engineering Services Manager at The University of Liverpool. 


Cooling System Upgrades 

Conventional cooling technologies can be significant energy consumers. There are many potential upgrades to cooling systems that can be installed to achieve carbon and financial savings, including replacing existing equipment with more efficient alternatives, improving controls and replacement with alternative technologies such as free cooling. The University of Nottingham used £1,054,000 of interest-free financing to replace an existing chiller with two high efficiency chillers serving their Medical School. Net energy bill savings for a full year are expected to be over £237,000, with lifetime financial savings of over £3.4 million.  


“One of the main benefits of this project has been the significant energy and carbon savings. Over a three-month period last summer we reduced our steam consumption cost by £120,000 and made a net carbon saving of over 400 tonnes, while only using £20,000 of electricity.” Martin Oakes, Carbon Reduction Manager at The University of Nottingham.