September

Journey to Net Zero

In 2010 Bath Spa embarked on a 10-year carbon and energy reduction plan, which it successfully delivered two years ahead of time. Now the University hopes to go even further.

Bath Spa University’s purpose is to challenge students and staff to realise their talent and thrive, for their own benefit and for the wider good. By doing this, the Bath Spa community will think and make the world a better place. This is a statement of sustainability and it’s something the University endeavours to practice in everything it does.

A key component of this is tackling climate change – and the University’s carbon reduction programme is a core element. 

In 2010 Bath Spa embarked on a 10-year carbon and energy reduction plan, which it successfully delivered two years ahead of time. Now the University hopes to go even further, implementing its second Carbon Reduction Management Plan, with the aim of reaching a target of net zero emissions by 2030. 

That work is being recognised – this year Bath Spa is one of only 11 universities nominated for a 2023 Green Gown UK and Ireland Award in the 2030 Climate Action category for its Decarbonisation programme. Sustainability Manager Julian Greaves, who has also been nominated for a Green Gown award, is spearheading the project. 

“The carbon reduction programme has been central to our sustainability work for the last 13 years, and the Net Zero 2030 target is the next major step in our journey. Developing and implementing Bath Spa’s decarbonisation programme was what I came here to do, so I’m very happy to see it through.”

“The carbon reduction programme has been central to our sustainability work for the last 13 years, and the Net Zero 2030 target is the next major step in our journey. Developing and implementing Bath Spa’s decarbonisation programme was what I came here to do, so I’m very happy to see it through,” Julian said. 

Julian leads a team of three, working to deliver the sustainability strategy across the University. When he first started in his role, the University had only just begun to think about managing its energy and carbon emissions.  

“The first job was to actually come up with the plan,” Julian said. “We did it systematically by evaluating the energy performance of each of our buildings and all our activities and working out all the opportunities for energy and carbon savings. Then we came up with a huge spreadsheet-based model to determine what we thought we could achieve over 10 years. And that became our target.”  

That target – to cut the University’s emissions in half by 2020 – was very ambitious. The large proportion of heritage buildings and the particular constraints related to the listed landscape of Newton Park presented its challenges. The University also grew by about 50% during that time, which added to the difficulty, but Julian said: “What’s the point if you can do something that’s easy?” 

"I know we could be the first university in the land to actually attain third party verification of net zero. I know that we can do that. If we put our minds to it, we could blaze a trail to being the UK’s first net zero university."

It may not have been easy, but the University successfully implemented nearly every measure of the plan by 2018 – two years earlier than planned – and has led to the avoidance of over 14,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions so far. 

Bath Spa’s new Net Zero 2030 target includes emissions, not just from buildings but from business travel, commuting, waste and water consumption, known as “Scope 3 emissions”. The University is doing a lot of work to reduce these emissions, including working with local authority and public transport providers to improve low carbon transport and a salary sacrifice electric vehicle lease scheme for staff. 

While Bath Spa continues to optimise its energy control systems and upgrade lighting, air conditioning and ventilation to the most efficient available, the main focus of the programme is to decarbonise heating at Newton Park. This will be a three to five year project to replace all combustion-based heating on site with heat pumps that run on renewable electricity. 

"I'm not surprised that we've got to where we are. I've had full support from the University at every stage and I am proud of what we have achieved, and will go on to achieve, together.” 

It will be enormously challenging, due to the heritage-related restrictions on many of the University’s buildings and the unique geology of its sites. But, despite these challenges, Julian remains positive. 

Talking about the future of the programme, Julian said: 

“In terms of decarbonisation, I know we could be the first university in the land to actually attain third party verification of net zero. I know that we can do that. If we put our minds to it, we could blaze a trail to being the UK’s first net zero university. It’s going to be a real challenge, but it’s moving forward.” 

Bath Spa University continues to prioritise sustainability as part of its ethos. Last year, the University was named the 18th greenest university in the UK, and third in the South West, in the People and Planet University League Table. Bath Spa was also recently awarded Gold Accreditation by the British Hedgehog Society for being a Hedgehog-Friendly Campus and has been awarded Fairtrade University status.  

“I'm not surprised that we've got to where we are,” Julian said. “Because I know the work that's gone into it and the support that there's been. I've had full support from the University at every stage and I am proud of what we have achieved, and will go on to achieve, together.” 

Read more about sustainability at Bath Spa on our website

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.

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