Carbon, energy and water management

UWE Bristol has committed to be carbon neutral as an organisation, with net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030.

This covers all carbon emissions (known as Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions), produced as a result of our activities on and off campus, which includes our own use of electricity and gas, travel of staff and students, and the carbon related to all our purchases (water, construction, food, laboratory and research materials, and so forth). It is a huge commitment and an enormous challenge.

R block with wild flowers and solar panels

Carbon management

The Carbon and Energy Management Plan 2020-2030 (PDF), produced in consultation with students and staff, outlines the University's commitment and ambition for reducing our carbon emissions.

Using science-based targets, this outlines how we will reach net-zero through working through the carbon reduction hierarchy to avoid, reduce and replace before considering means to compensate for carbon emissions (e.g. through offsetting and insetting). Our latest targets can be found in our Climate and Sustainability plan 2024-2026.

The UWE Bristol Heat Decarbonisation Plan is constantly being worked on. This will identify the clear route to decarbonise the UWE Bristol campuses to achieve the net-zero target.

Official Race to Zero Signatory

We are part of the Race to Zero and are leading the education sector for a healthy and resilient zero carbon recovery.

Our targets

UWE Bristol is committed to:

  • becoming carbon neutral as an organisation, with net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030 across Scopes 1, 2 and 3
  • In line with Science Base Targets to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels:
    • Absolute reducing in Scopes 1 and 2 (location based) by 46.2% by 2030 against a 2018/19 baseline
    • Reduction in Scope 3 emissions by 50.4% by 2030 against a 2018/19 baseline
Man holding a plant with coins around it

Scope 3 emissions

Scope 3 presents the most significant challenge in reaching our carbon reduction targets with large parts of our footprint laying outside our direct operational and financial control. To assist us in our work in March 2023 we were one of the first universities in the country to hire a member of staff to focus solely on scope 3 emissions.

Scope 3 emissions graph showing three overlapping circles, increasing in size, representing the three levels of scope 3 categories: operational control, financial control and institutional influence.

Our strategy for addressing scope 3 emissions is based on three areas:

  • Data – accurately measuring supply chain emissions and using data to inform and direct our strategy.
  • Internal engagement – engaging staff and students, and shaping behaviours, policies and processes.
  • External engagement – working with suppliers and collaborating with partners to decarbonise our supply chain and the regional transport system.

Our carbon emissions table (PDF) shows our progress in all scopes since our baseline date to 2022/23.

Examples of capital investment

By way of illustration of our commitment, In the last five years we’ve invested in decarbonising our campus including:

  • £85 million in new passivhaus student accommodation – largest development of its kind in the UK and one of the largest in Europe.
  • Continued investment in solar generation, with a further 720 solar panels on the W and T blocks of the Frenchay campus, at a value of £350k.
  • £3 million on the first phase of Frenchay district heat network, with installation of combined heat and power plant (2020) with a further investment this year of £2.2million along with funding achieved for £2.5 million to extend the heat network to cover most of the Frenchay Campus.
  • And new projects are planned every year to meet the net-zero carbon target.

Water management

The Water Management Plan 2020-2030 (PDF) outlines the approach UWE Bristol take to ensuring good water management.  The Carbon and Energy Team is continuously monitoring water use patterns and identifying water saving measures across the University. Successes include:

  • over £125,000 savings in the student village per year - this is a reduction of over 66 million litres
  • approximately £13,000 savings in Bower Ashton Campus
  • savings of £15,000 on the Glenside Campus
  • the expansion of the universities rainwater harvesting systems, R and Z block
  • carbon emissions arising from water use and disposal have fallen from 145 tCO2e in our baseline year 2018/19 to 41 tCO2e in 2022/23.

There is an ongoing programme of projects being carried out to reduce the University's water consumption. The following are a selection of more recent examples:

  • The new metering software ESIGHT, developed by the Carbon and Energy Team, generates alarms when high water consumption occurs which allows the fault to be rectified within hours.
  • The Showering Research Project run in collaboration with UWE Bristol academics and the International Water Security Network, we are investigating water-reduction methods on Frenchay Campus. This project, has provided not only savings to the university, but various academic papers and published journals that have provided data that has benefited institutions globally.
  • Hot water reduction - with water consumption being reduced throughout the University, substantial savings can be identified by reducing hot water. This provides UWE Bristol with an opportunity to further reduce our energy costs, and help us to achieve our commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Water sub-metering - to manage the water use of the site, we need to understand where and when it is used. There is a rolling programme, installing sub-meters across all campuses to help understand water consumption patterns in more detail. This includes water sub-meters in major water-use areas such as catering and research labs.
  • Rainwater - we included rainwater harvesting in the new Engineering Building to use for toilet flushing. 
  • Low water use specification (new build and refurbishment) - ensuring low-flow water fittings and waterless urinals are included in refurbishment and building specifications where suitable.

Renewable energy

UWE Bristol is committed to maximise the solar photovoltaic potential on our sites and already generates our own energy from both solar photovoltaics and from our CHP engines.

At the time of installation in 2015, the array on the Frenchay Campus T-block was the largest single roof-mounted solar installation in the UK higher education sector. Since then we have increased our solar arrays and in the 2022/23 academic year generated 456 MWh, saving 94 tonnes of CO2 and reducing UWE Bristol operating costs by £114,000.

Alongside this, UWE Bristol purchases 20% all electricity from a power purchase ;agreement. Supporting UK onshore wind, this electricity is generated from the following Statkraft wind farms:

  • Alltwalis Wind Farm, Carmarthen, Wales
  • Andershaw Wind Farm, South Lanarkshire, Scotland
  • Baillie Wind Farm, Scottish Highlands
  • Berry Burn Wind Farm, Scottish Highlands

The remainder of our electricity is purchased from the grid under a zero-carbon contract. UWE Bristol's ambition is to increase the use of renewables through further installations of solar photovoltaics on site, and through entering more power purchase agreements to support new developments of renewables in the UK.


We are continuously working on new projects to reduce the University’s energy consumption and proactively save money. Below are some examples of the Energy Team's recent work.

Capital projects

We take pride in working to high sustainability standards for all capital projects, both new build and refurbishments.

School of Engineering building

UWE Bristol's new School of Engineering building on Frenchay campus has achieved an "Excellent" rating for its green credentials from the international scheme BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method).

Examples of the sustainability best practice employed in the building include having lots of natural ventilation, installing PV (solar) panels, connection to UWE Bristol's district heating network, use of underfloor heating and use of materials with high thermal mass (the ability of a material to absorb and store heat energy).

Alistair Brooke, Assistant Director of Estates commented on the project: "A fantastic achievement for UWE Bristol and the Project Team. Strong collaboration enabled sustainability to be embedded from the early stages of the project and ultimately led to the success of the scheme. The project is a further endorsement of UWE Bristol's commitment to sustainability and innovation across its estate."

Student Accommodation Project (SAP3)

Our new, 900-bed student accommodation has been built to Passivhaus standards. It is one of the largest low-carbon certified developments of its kind anywhere in Europe and a first for the university sector in the UK.

The buildings will yield a 54% reduction in running costs and carbon emissions compared with a typical ‘good practice’ building.

Energy projects

We are continuously working on new energy projects to reduce the University’s energy consumption, reduce carbon emissions, and reduce the university running costs, below are just some examples of the Energy Team's recent work.

District heating network and combined heat and power

A low carbon district heating network supplied by gas-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant has been in operation since November 2020. It meets 35% of the Frenchay Campus heat requirements and 21% of all the electricity used on the campus. It saves 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2) per year and provide a financial payback within seven years. Funding has now been secured to extend the network in 2024/25 in readiness for installing additional low carbon heat sources in line with the Heat Decarbonisation Plan.

The CHP is housed in the T-block Energy Centre, with the district heating network supplying heat to the following buildings on campus: the Students’ Union building, the School of Business and Law building, the new Engineering building, the Frenchay Library, Robotics, the University Enterprise Zone, the Exhibition and Conference Centre and part of the Wallscourt Park residences. During 2024/25, the network will extend to S block, A-N blocks, Q block, R block, the Farmhouse and the remainder of Wallscourt park residences.

Student accommodation heating upgrades

In the summer of 2020 a project started to upgrade the electric heating and the controls in the Student Village. This covered around 70% of the rooms. The new heating controls, supplied by Prefect, have built in PIRs ensuring less energy waste because the controls switch off after 10 minutes of inactivity in the room. The new controls now give the students control over whether they want their heating in low, medium or high mode and can also use the boost setting for extra heat. Along with this, accommodation staff can make changes via a web portal rather than having to enter student bedrooms. Other energy saving measures include open window detection, which will sense a drop in temperature and determine that leaving the heating on would waste energy and will again switch off. 

Approx. savings seen in Brecon Court: Feb 2020 vs. Feb 2021 – 16% reduction in energy use, saving 15,300 kWh and 3.2 tCO₂e.

The remaining 30% of the Student Village was completed July-Sept 2021 ready for the new students arriving for the 2021/22 academic year.

Due to the success of this project it was decided in September 2020 that houses 1-38 in Wallscourt Park would also be upgraded from gas central heating to electric heating, using the same controls.

Most recently (May 2021) The Hollies had a Prefect install to upgrade their heating controls. At the same time the hot water tanks had new heating elements installed (two per tank) which are more energy efficient, easier to manage via the online portal and don’t both run at the same time unless necessary, giving further energy savings.

Prefect controls are now specified as standard as part of any student accommodation new builds and have been installed in our new passivhaus accommodation Purdown View.

Lighting projects and upgrades

There have been some large lighting upgrades at UWE Bristol. In 2018/19 alone we committed £822,000 for a number of lighting design schemes which were projected to deliver 283 tonnes of carbon savings per year. LED fittings and intelligent controls were installed in areas including: the Exhibition and Conference Centre (internal and external lighting), S-block internal lighting, R-block external lighting, Mallard House internal and external lighting, Q-block internal lighting and Centre for Sports communal areas and corridors.

Other lighting upgrades have taken place throughout the estate, although these have been smaller projects. The lighting in T Block storage area was upgraded from sodium fittings to LED’s which is estimated to have saved 155,800 kWh and 39.5 tCO₂ each year.

Lighting on Level 3 of the Arnolfini was upgraded in 2022, replacing fluorescent fittings with LEDs.

There are still patches of older lighting across the estate which will be upgraded to LED over the coming few years. Sometimes this will be as standalone projects but may also be included as part of area refurbishments.

Transformer upgrades

There is a plan to upgrade old, inefficient transformers across the estate. The E and N Block transformers at Frenchay Campus were the first to have been changed to new technology. The estimated savings for these two blocks are 75,000 kWh and 19 tCO₂ per year.

This was followed by Frenchay B Block and F Block transformer upgrades. These upgrades are estimated to provide savings of 47,000 kWh / 12 tCO₂ and 94,000 kWh / 24tCO₂ respectively.

Further transformers will be changed over the coming years.

Insulation upgrades

Pipework insulation has been installed/upgraded in various plant room areas across all campuses in a bid to minimise wasted heat. This is an ongoing programme with further pipework insulation being installed where necessary.

Optimising our solar generation

All of the UWE Bristol solar photovoltaic arrays are regularly maintained and cleaned to ensure that they are providing optimal performance. There is also a desire to add more PV arrays and a feasibility study has been undertaken at Frenchay Campus and Bower Ashton Campus to identify the best roofs for further installations.

In the coming years the plan is to add PV to all appropriate roofs. This will form part of UWE Bristol’s route to meeting its net zero target by 2030. All new buildings will have PV added to them and existing buildings will have PV retrofitted wherever possible.

Energy Management Software

Our Energy Management Software records consumption of electricity, gas, water and heat from over 1,200 meters across the UWE Bristol sites. This data is used to monitor and measure consumption, enabling variations in profile to be spotted and investigated. This data is also available for students and academics to use for projects, ensuring that we use our own campus as a Living Lab.

We are continually developing and extending the coverage of the automatic metering infrastructure on all campuses to allow greater monitoring and measurement of energy consumption.

Carbon literacy and action

The journey to net zero needs everyone at UWE Bristol to understand and participate in action to push forward change. To help all staff and students at UWE Bristol feel they have both the knowledge and the ability to make a real and significant difference, we run a Climate Action programme which includes:

  • Climate Action cafés specific to the interests of those attending and their areas of work.
  • Sustainability action planning for services.
  • Free Climate Education module for all students and staff – a new initiative for 2023/24 brought in as a result of a student campaign.
  • Staff Carbon literacy training – ‘Carbon and You’ sets out the essential facts on climate change and aims to give a clear understanding on how to act to reduce their contribution to the causes of climate change. ‘Working at UWE’ is focused on how staff can understand the impact of their work decisions on UWE Bristol’s carbon footprint and incorporate changes that will help to reduce this.

Living Lab: our education offer

Our work is presenting increasing academic and research opportunities for our students and staff. The Energy Team are exploring the Living Lab concept with the aim of enhancing our academic offerings, encouraging collaboration, increasing research opportunities, and ensuring our access to the latest research with a view to enhancing future projects. As we develop the Living Lab over the coming years, we plan to widen it out to include partnerships with other education institutions, industry and regional partners.

Contact the Carbon and Energy Team


Students and academics are welcome to contact us for statistics on our carbon data, campus and building energy and water use, display energy certificates and access to more detailed consumption data.