What this hospital, university and training base can teach the public sector about decarbonisation

The UK public sector is a major energy user, spending £3.4 billion a year and generating 3% of the nation’s carbon emissions. Government targets demand reductions in both figures. But help is at hand.

Research by Centrica shows that if only half of all public sector sites adopted various types of energy efficiency and on-site generation, costs could be reduced by £375 million, saving 660,000 tonnes of CO2.

Collectively, these cost-cutting and carbon-saving measures are known as distributed energy. Solutions can range from LED lighting to solar panels and combined heat and power plants.

Pressure on frontline budgets has made it hard for public sector organisations to prioritise tackling their energy costs.  But now interest-free funding is available.

Here are three projects which will deliver significant cost and carbon savings, helping the public sector achieve its target to reduce CO2 emissions by 43% over the ten-year period which ends in April 2020. 


Cutting costs for the NHS

The NHS spends £1.1billion a year on energy, generating a carbon footprint of 5.4 million tonnes of CO2. The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) is playing a leading part in showing what the NHS can do to reduce costs and emissions.

RD&E expects to reduce its annual energy costs by £800,000 a year, following a £7 million investment in sustainable energy measures. As a leading teaching hospital for the South West the trust operates across multiple sites in Exeter and East Devon.

At its main Wonford hospital, the trust has installed a new 1.5-megawatt combined heat and power unit backed up by rooftop solar panels. Heavitree Hospital and the Mardon neuro-Rehabilitation Centre also benefitted from solar panels and Wonford and Heavitree are installing new LED lighting. In addition, Mardon has been given new energy-efficient heating boilers.

These measures will reduce RD&E’s energy costs by 17% and its emissions by more than 2,200 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to taking 1,450 cars off the road.


A university ahead of the curve

Energy is a major cost for the University of Birmingham. With almost 35,000 students, it is a member of the elite Russell Group of research-based universities and was the first in the UK to be built on a single integrated campus.

Collectively, Britain’s universities spend £400 million a year on energy, generating a carbon footprint of 1.8 million tonnes of CO2.  Birmingham reached its 2020 target to reduce emission by 25% five years early.

In 2014 the university installed a new 4.4-megawatt gas turbine powered Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit to deliver baseload heat requirements year-round for the main campus. It has since added five further combined heat and power generators.

Since 2016, the university has been participating in the Capacity Market, selling excess generation back to the grid. Birmingham is a low carbon pioneer in other areas too. Last year it developed and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered train.


A greener navy base

Named for Admiral Lord Nelson’s second in command, HMS Collingwood is the Royal Navy’s largest shore training base. The 200-acre site is home to the Maritime Warfare School.

As part of a project to develop integrated energy solutions across the public sector, Centrica worked with government-sponsored Modern Energy Partners (MEP) to help identify potential energy efficiency solutions and strategic energy plans for HMS Collingwood.

A new distributed energy system at the site would use a combined heat and power plant, solar panels, and energy-efficient lighting to reduce costs and cut emissions.

If implemented, the new technologies could help reduce HMS Collingwood’s energy bills by around a third, saving up to £1 million. Carbon emissions could be cut by more than 1,300 tonnes annually – a 63% reduction against 1990 levels.