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Universities ‘could save £2.2bn on energy bills by 2035’

UK universities could reduce energy bills by £146m a year if they upgrade outdated energy systems, according to new research released by Centrica Business Solutions.

The saving, which amounts to £2.19bn over a typical 15-year energy contract, is identified in a new study that aims to assess the economic opportunity of public sector organisations adopting green technology.

The Powering Britain’s Public Sector report found that if just half of the UK’s 106 universities updated their energy systems – by deploying technology like combined heat and power units, battery storage and solar panels – it would reduce annual energy costs by more than a third (36%), enough to pay the salaries of more than 3,700 lecturers.

The adoption of new energy technology would also deliver an annual emissions saving of 160,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, around eight per cent of the sector’s current carbon footprint and the equivalent of taking 105,000 cars off the road. The carbon reduction savings could be doubled with the injection of around 20% green gas – a type of gas created from biodegradable material – into the fuel mix.

The new report examines the impact that the adoption of distributed energy technology would have on the university, healthcare and defence sectors. Distributed energy solutions are designed to help organisations take control of their energy, so that it’s produced and managed at the point of use, often independent of the grid. 

Combined, the three public sector estates are responsible for more than 7.8m tonnes of carbon emissions each year and have been challenged by the Government to reduce emissions by 30% by 2020/21, and hit net zero by 2050. Universities 'could save £2.2bn on energy bills by 2035' - Birmingham Uni

Alan Barlow, Director of UK and Ireland for Centrica Business Solutions, said: “Powering Britain’s universities costs in the region of £400m every year. Such public expenditure has come into sharp focus over the last decade, alongside ambitious goals to reduce its carbon footprint.

“Those institutions that seize the initiative and adopt new energy technology will not only create savings on their energy bills and reduce their carbon emissions but will also establish a competitive edge over those who don’t.”

Centrica aims to deliver £300m in energy efficiency savings for the public sector and essential services globally by 2030, as part of its responsible business ambitions.

To help the public sector implement the necessary energy technology changes, Centrica has made a series of recommendations to government, including the simplification of procurement frameworks and a stable and long-term regulatory environment.

Case study: The University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham campus is used by more than 30,000 staff and students and is, by nature, energy intensive.

To help reduce its energy bills, improve resilience and bring down carbon emissions, a 4.4 MW combined heat and power unit (CHP) was installed to generate energy and heat directly on campus. A further five CHPs were fitted shortly after.

CHP technology works by converting gas into both electricity and heat in a single process. It’s one of the most efficient sources of energy production and allows an organisation to produce a significant amount of its energy on-site – improving the resilience of supply and reducing costs.

Since the adoption of the CHPs, the university has saved £1.8m on its energy bills and generated 10 million kWH of energy on-site.

Since 2016, the university has also been participating in the Capacity Market, which allows it to sell any excess energy generated on-site back to the grid, creating a new income stream for the organisation.

To read the Powering Britain’s Public Sector report in full, click here centrica.com

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