PV Cells 2020

Energy, Water & OUR Carbon Footprint

Climate change and finite energy resources have been identified as two of the biggest challenges facing the world today. To tackle these issues in 2020 the university committed  to achieving Net Zero by 2030.

Our Net Zero by 2030 Action Plan highlights the actors, systems and progress needed to meet our wider reaching carbon reduction targets:

  • Direct and electricity (‘Scope 1 & 2’) emissions have a target of zero.
  • Indirect emissions (‘Scope 3’ from Waste, Water, Business Travel (non-fleet) and Laboratory gases) must be reduced by at least 50% by 2030 against the baseline year and must continue to be reduced after 2030 by at least 90% against the baseline by 2050.
  • Residual carbon remaining at the net zero target date must be balanced by carbon removal schemes (note that these differs from offsets that avoid or mitigate carbon).

Transparency is crucial and it should be noted that other Scope 3 emissions, such as those driven by procured goods and services, employee, or student commuting, have been excluded at this stage but must be considered as a future second phase for the University to progress to net zero in its full sense. All of these Scope 3 emissions are however reported to the Higher Education Statistical Agency EMR Report.

Innovations & Infrastructure

Investment will be required in order to make our Net Zero 2030 target a reality. The University is supportive of these decisions, with a number of improvements already made, including:

  • An approved Salix Grant installing Air & Ground Source heat pumps at Avery Hill to cut gas consumption by a third, significantly reducing our reliance of fossil fuels.
  • 130 waterless urinals throughout campuses, saving 13 million litres of water, the equivalent of 43,000 four minute showers.
  • Low flow cisterns, taps and showers are installed in all our new and refurbished buildings.
  • £430,000+ was spent in 2021, fitting new innovative sensory heaters in three Avery Hill accommodation blocks that can automatically detect room absence to save energy.
  • 150+ solar PV cells installed across Stockwell Street and Avery Hill halls.
  • Operational CHP (Combined Heat & Power Plant) at our Medway Campus, running on recycled cooking oil.

If you have an idea for a carbon saving then funds are available to deliver your proposal. Get in touch with us at sustainability@gre.ac.uk.

Behavioural Change Initiatives

It is not only large-scale investment required however; we all have a responsibility, students and staff in minimising our consumption of utilities and products. A number of initiatives have been established to encourage positive change and reduce our collective environmental impacts.

  • Make Your Change is our internal engagement campaign, encouraging students and staff to take small, personal actions from saving energy to buying better.
  • GREen Rewards is an app and online platform where you can record your sustainable actions – like travelling sustainably, reporting your recycling and shopping responsibly – and earn Points for rewards.
  • End of Term Reuse encourages students to donate unwanted items to local charity. Operating every year, it focuses on waste reduction but also educates on better choice.
  • Sustainability Champions are dedicated staff members across the University, helping to drive positive change.
  • Action on Carbon at Greenwich was the initial campaign developed following the Carbon Management Plan 2019-2022. It has since been superseded by the above, but gives guidance on possible day to day action.

If you what to get involved, or have a new engagement idea get in touch with us at sustainability@gre.ac.uk.

Our Carbon Footprint

Planet Mark externally verify our carbon footprint annually, showcasing that the University is accurate, and transparent over our data collection, calculations and analysis. This footprint is aligned to the targets of the Net Zero Action Plan.

Location vs Market Based Electricity Emissions

You may see organisations (including Greenwich) report on either Location-based, Market-based, or both when referring to electricity consumption and carbon emissions. This can cause confusion, as your emissions may significantly drop or increase depending on which you are viewing. Electricity Scope 2 footprints can be calculated in two ways:

Location-based: The location-based method reflects the average emissions intensity of grids on which energy consumption occurs (using mostly grid-average emission factor data).

Market-based: The market-based method reflects
emissions from electricity that companies have purposefully chosen (or their lack of choice), e.g. by using a green or renewable tariff. Tariffs that provide 100% carbon free/renewable electricity mean that there the emission value will drop to zero. The University is on a 100% carbon-free tariff.

Market-based may be seen as a more accurate positive, however for most mandatory reporting (including HESA) location-based is used because there may be some organisations who do not know, or have a lack of choice, making comparisons between them more accurate. Reports should always say which emission factors they are using. Regardless of location or market based values, all electricity consumption will have Transmission and Distribution LosesScope 3 emissions – lost through the network in some fashion (technical issues and equipment).

It can be argued that with Market-based factors, if on a 100% renewable tariff the organisation does not need to reduce consumption because emissions are zero. However, reducing the consumption will still save financial cost, and by reducing consumption the organisation is opening up the demand for others to join the tariff that will reduce carbon emissions.

Our Total Footprint

The images below illustrate the contributions of carbon that our activities and operations make. Scope 1 emissions relate to all emissions directly under our control (e.g. diesel used in our vehicle fleet or gas burned in our heating boilers). Scope 2 emissions cover our indirect emissions including electricity bought and used by our organisation. Our Carbon Management Plan, and this analysis is using location-based electricity emission factors. Scope 3 covers  all other indirect emissions  occurring from sources that are not our own (business travel, procurement, waste, water).  This information is reported to our Sustainability Management Board.

Planet Mark’s Certification Report

Forming part of the Business Certification, and assisting the Net Zero 2030 Action Plan, Planet Mark’s Verification Carbon Footprint Report 2020-21 can be viewed here. This report includes both Location and Market-based electricity emission factors.

Whilst this report provides a visually stunning representation of our carbon footprint, it confirms that we our transparent, and accurate in our carbon footprint’ing. With Plant Mark’s support, and with identifying new data sets, our carbon footprint will continue to reflect our total University contribution, and lead to further opportunities in reducing it.

Our Halls of Residence Footprint

These graphs illustrate the electricity and gas used in our halls calculated readings taken from our electricity and gas meters and the carbon emitted by this energy use. In May 2020, following an Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) contract, Daniel Defoe and Cutty Sark Halls came into University ownership. This explains the increase of electricity, and addition of gas in the case of Daniel Defoe.

The coronavirus pandemic must also be mentioned, with sharp decreases seen in 2019/20 when lockdowns began and students left halls of residence early. 2020/21 would still have seen these impacts, with multiple vacant rooms across campuses as learning shifted to virtual and students decided to study at home.

In addition to this IFM contract, Medway halls and a section at Avery Hill (Howard, Tudor, Parr, Cleeves) are under operation of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracted to another branch of Sodexo.  These halls are managed separately, and so are not included in the above and below figures, though through our influence these areas are included in behavioural change campaigns.

Students are also encouraged to utilise and analyse energy and other data and the detailed energy use figures (including for halls use) are available on request from sustainability@gre.ac.uk for information. The installation of new technologies is important, however, behavioural change will have an influence where residents can decide whether they use energy efficiently or waste it.

Using Our Data – Living Lab

We welcome analysis and scrutiny of our data. If you are undertaking research at the University and would like to utilise our data as part of a Living Lab exercise (using data from a real-life example), please get in touch by emailing sustainability@gre.ac.uk with your request.

Case Study – Graduate Engagement helping Drive Efficiency Improvement

Over the summer of 2018 a graduate, Alex Andrew, worked with the Sustainability Team for three weeks to improve our analysis and management of carbon. This work delivered  practical tools that are helping us better target energy efficiency improvements including applying statistical analysis to provide up to date degree day data to help us identify efficiencies in the heating of buildings. Further work focused on utilising GIS to understand student commuting to help out green transport planning. Furthermore Alex applied his academic knowledge to develop a report highlighting the risks of climate change on the functioning and planning of our estate.

2 thoughts on “Energy, Water & OUR Carbon Footprint”

  1. Do we have more detailed information on the weight of procurement (83%) over the total greenhouse gas emission of the University (“19/20 Carbon Breakdown title” diagram, I guess “scope 3”)? This is a huge ratio and then we would need to have a breakdown of greenhouse gas emission due to procurement.

    1. Sorry Lionel, only just seen this comment! We do have a more detailed breakdown of Procurement, and what elements make up the Procurement total that you’re seeing here. Happy to share the data if you would like to see. This page will be moving to our corporate page in due course, where we’ll be able to show things a bit more visually and in detail too.

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University of Greenwich Sustainability Blog