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, including 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.

Read on below for more information on how we are approaching this.

R block with wild flowers and solar panels

Carbon management

The Carbon and Energy Management Plan 2020-2030 (PDF) outlines the commitment and ambition that UWE Bristol has for reducing our carbon emissions.

Based on 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).

The UWE Bristol Heat Decarbonisation Plan is currently 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 in the lead up to COP26.

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
  • reducing Scopes 1 and 2 (market based) by 46.2% by 2030 against a 2018/19 baseline in line with Science Based Targets to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Man holding a plant with coins around it

Water management

The Water Management Plan 2020 - 2030 outlines the approach UWE Bristol take to ensuring good water management.  Since 2017 a water conservation specialist has supported the identification of 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
  • savings of £15,000 on the Glenside Campus
  • the expansion of the universities rainwater harvesting systems, R and Z block.

The Estates and Facilities department have been working with academic colleagues, Professor Chad Staddon and other academic specialists. In a comparison from 2015-2019, the University has reduced water consumption by 80 million litres, or approximately £175,000. 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:

  • By utilising the new metering software ESIGHT, developed by the Energy Team, alarms are now generated when high water consumption is occurring. This allows fault to be rectified within hours, further reducing water consumption, as well as the environmental impact of water losses. 
  • Showering Research Project: 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 are investigating opportunities for rainwater/greywater recycling for new and existing buildings.
  • 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 strategy

We generate our own energy from both solar photovoltaics on site (see details below), and from our CHP engines.

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 100% renewable sources. We are proud to have purchased 100% renewable electricity since 2016.

UWE Bristol's solar installation

Our commitment to solar electricity

UWE Bristol has the largest single roof-mounted solar installation in the UK higher education sector, installed in 2015

In the 2019/20 academic year, the UWE Bristol on-site solar arrays generated 490 MWh, saving 114 tonnes CO2 and reducing UWE Bristol operating costs by £73,500.


We are continuously working on new projects to reduce the University’s energy consumption, and proactively save money, below are just 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."

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 is now up and running. This will meet 35% of the Frenchay Campus heat requirements and 21% of all the electricity used on the campus. This will save 700 tonnes of carbon dioxide (tCO2) per year and provide a financial payback within seven years. Further plans are being developed to extend the network and install additional low carbon heat sources as part of 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 Faculty 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.

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 is scheduled to be 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.  This had added benefits as some rooms were much hotter than others and now rather than struggling with a whole house system each room can be controlled individually.

Most recently (May 2021) The Hollies had a Prefect install to upgrade their heating controls to the same as those at the Student Village and Wallscourt Park House 1-38.  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.

Lighting projects and upgrades

Over the last few years 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. At the moment the lighting in T Block storage area is being upgraded from sodium fittings to LED’s which is estimated to save 155,800 kWh and 39.5 tCO₂ each year.

We are also reviewing a whole building lighting upgrade at The Arnolfini.

There are still patches of older lighting across the estate which will be upgraded to LED over the coming few years.

Transformer upgrades

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

Further transformers will be changed over the coming years.

Insulation upgrades

Pipework insulation has been installed/upgraded in various plant room areas 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 to identify the best roofs for further installations.

Energy Management Software

Our Energy Management Software records consumption of electricity, gas, water and heat from over 1200 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 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.

Climate Action Cafes are the basis of this programme and offer teams or groups of staff the opportunity to host a dedicated session to focus on climate change and consider what they can do to tackle this, both as a member of UWE Bristol and in their own lives. Staff from the Sustainability and Energy teams give an introduction into the challenge of climate change and then work with the group to determine meaningful action that individuals or particular teams can take.

The cafes are specific to those who are attending so the focus for each one will be different. The key aim is to find out where individuals and groups can have the most effect on combating climate change and encouraging action.

Carbon literacy training

To further support climate action we are developing a package of carbon literacy training which will give all staff and students the opportunity to enhance their knowledge on climate change. The first of these training modules ‘Carbon and You’ is available now to all staff and students and 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.

Further training will also be developed to assist particular groups of staff with specific roles at UWE Bristol to give a more in-depth review of work activities and how these can be adapted to reduce the impact on climate change. These sessions will be tailored to suit the team and focus on integrating climate change into the everyday practices of that group.

Contact the Energy Team


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