Carbon emissions are only a small slice of the sustainability cake

Posted by sll33 at Apr 15, 2015 09:05 PM |
The University of Leicester's response to the THE carbon target article
Carbon emissions are only a small slice of the sustainability cake

Leicester has many targets to hit

The Times Higher Education have cited Leicester as one of the Universities that are not on track to meet their HEFCE carbon targets by 2020.

Well yes, the data that the THE used do suggest that Leicester’s carbon emissions have increased but we can demonstrate that we are successfully mixing a number of strategic ingredients to balance our sustainability commitments with those of enhancing our teaching, learning and overall student experience.

Leicester's target is to achieve an absolute reduction of 60% of the carbon emissions of the University by 2020 (based upon its 2004/5 carbon footprint baseline). This is very high as, unlike most universities, we had pretty good data for this time.

Crucially, the University has grown significantly since 2004/5

Importantly, the data that the article is based on are out of date. Our 2013/14 figures* show that:

  • Total carbon consumption has decreased by 9%
  • 20% of our electricity is low carbon generated locally (Combined Heat and Power produced on site)
  • 37% of our heat is produced by renewables or low carbon energy
  • We have increased our renewable electricity production by 19%
  • We have saved almost 800 litres of fuel/year in Estates by switching to electric vehicles and driving efficiently
  • Our energy consumption per m2 has reduced by 27% since 2004/5

Crucially, the University has grown significantly since 2004/5:

  • We have 20% more students
  • We have 12% more floor space, including a whole new site
  • We have enhanced our student experience with two new sports centres with swimming pools and increased Halls of Residence (at a time when many universities are selling off such facilities)
  • We have responded to student feedback by keeping the library and the students union buildings open for longer
  • We have enhanced our research capacity, including two new medical research buildings
    • Our new medical building is the largest Passivhaus building in the UK
    • The 12,000 sq. meter building is design and constructed to an Energy Performance Certificate ‘A’. Post 12 months occupancy, the building shall be optimised to achieve a minimum Display Energy Certificate energy rating ‘A’.

We are proud of reducing our energy consumption despite increasing both our floor space and student numbers as well as enhancing our research capabilities and student facilities.

As an institution in its 10th decade, we are investing in our old building stock for an university that will still be delivering fantastic teaching and research for centuries to come. This is what sustainability is!

Leicester is fully committed to lowering our carbon emissions but that is only one part of the mix. We believe that Universities can have their cake and eat it too. Sustainability should not be at the expense of great teaching and research, rather it can enhance it and ensure longevity of the institution.

 

*from the 2013/14 EMR statistics

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