With thousands of students, lecturers and visitors on a daily basis, and with many facilities like computer suites and libraries open 24/7, universities can be naturally high energy users with equally high energy bills.
The good news is that universities have a number of opportunities to significantly reduce elevated spend and one way of doing this is by installing energy-efficient technologies, which help to reduce energy use, minimising both their monetary spend and environmental impact, while also improving the learning environment.
With so many technologies available, it can be difficult for universities to decide which option is best for them. Salix Finance, who have financed a number of energy efficiency schemes in universities across the UK, using interest free loans, outlines the top five technologies that it has found to be most effective at 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. By upgrading older lighting with more efficient LED lamps, and by installing lighting controls which ensure lighting is only used when required, universities can make significant financial and carbon savings. The longer lifespan of LED lamps can also reduce maintenance requirements and costs.
An excellent example is Canterbury Christ Church University. After embarking on a £140,000 project to convert classroom and corridor lighting into more efficient alternatives, the university has not only made carbon savings of around 125 tonnes per annum, but also reduced its annual energy bill by approximately £32,660, paying off the investment in just over four years.
- Laboratory Upgrades
Laboratories used for teaching and research can be very energy intensive. A single fume cupboard, for example, can consume as much as 1-3 times that of an average home in a year. Substantial carbon and financial savings can be made by upgrading equipment and services within these areas such as efficiency fume cupboards, drying cabinets, growth cabinets and freezers.
By improving ventilation controls, the University of Reading achieved a 72% reduction in the energy consumption of its fume cupboards in the laboratories. Using £605,000 of interest-free finance and £405,000 of its own funding, the project is achieving annual financial savings of around £300,000, paying for itself in just over 3 years.
- Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS)
BEMS provide the central point of control for the operation of building services throughout a university. Used to control heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), BEMS can also 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.
Through proactive management and continuous improvement to a BEMS system, universities can typically save around 10% on their total building energy consumption and carbon footprint. Typically, the resulting financial savings from reduced maintenance costs and improved plant longevity are even more substantial than the energy efficiency gains.
Leeds Beckett University used £66,534 of interest-free loans from Salix to install new BEMS and controls across their estate. Their new BEMS is expected to save the university £17,213.68 annually in energy costs and an estimated 76 tC02e. The controls allow the university to control the temperature in individual rooms and kitchens using the wiring for the room panel heaters.
- Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
CHP is an efficient method of generating heat and power across one or more buildings and can potentially 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, two 2 MWe CHP engines were installed, generating 22 GWH of electricity each year, reducing energy bills by an estimated £1.5 million.
- Cooling System Upgrades
With conventional cooling technologies often being significant energy consumers, upgrades to cooling systems can achieve high carbon and financial savings. Key upgrades include improving controls and replacing existing equipment with more efficient alternatives and modern technologies such as free cooling.
Using £1,054,000 of interest-free financing, the University of Nottingham replaced 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.