40% of energy on campus is renewable

Image: Wikimedia Commons

  • 2 417 676 kWh of energy used at the University is generated from renewable solar and biomass sources
  • Carbon management plan hopes to upgrade facilities and reduce carbon emissions by 43 per cent by 2020

An investigation by Nouse has discovered that last year the University of York used 2 417 676 kWh from renewable energy sources, which is 40 per cent of all heat and electricity used. This means that the remaining 60 per cent of electrical energy consumed comes from CHP self-generated electricity.

This is a marginal improvement on the previous year, in which 38 per cent of heat and electricity on campus came from renewable energy sources. The University depends on two main sources for its renewable energy, namely solar and biomass. Solar energy is prominent, with 26 253 kWh of electricity being generated from the 80 solar panels, placed in various locations across both campuses. Meanwhile, the University’s carbon management plan states that increasingly using biomass boilers will directly prevent 3 468 tonnes of carbon from being emitted by 2020.

Overall the carbon management plan hopes that the University will produce 20 476 tonnes fewer of carbon dioxide by 2020. In order to do so, it plans to update us-age information and monitoring by upgrading facilities to make them more eco-friendly. Introducing new low carbon sources is also listed as a priority if the University is to achieve its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 43 per cent by 2020.

Currently the main source of heat energy on the university campus comes from the central boiler house. This facility dates back to the 1960s when the University was originally founded, yet it is to witness a significant upgrade. Subsequently, modern technology is needed if the University hopes to improve its environmental foot-print.

There are currently eight staff dedicated to the University’s environmental impact. In addition to these teams each department have their own Green Impact teams, which consist of volunteer members of staff and students.

In addition, an annual Student Switch Off campaign run by the NUS at universities includes York prizes and incentives in order to encourage students to participate. At the time of writing, Vanbrugh College was the most environmentally friendly college, whereas James College currently ranks at the bottom.

Similarly, the University is highly respected for the amount of wildlife there is on campus. As joked about by many students, the University is famous for its significant number of wildfowl, and a diverse number of species of bird can be found in the bird sanctuary which has been established at the southern end of the lake on Hes East. Various bee-friendly habitats have also been established across campus in order to try to boost the wellbeing of the ecosystem through higher pollination rates. The University won a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Green Flag ‘Bees Needs’ Award for its work in 2015.

Although the University is improving its environmental foot-print, and compares well to other universities in regards to its high use of renewable energy and its diverse wildlife, it has been criticised in People and Planet’s 2017 university league. The university is currently classified with a 2:2 ranking, and is placed 73rd out of 154 universities.

York has suffered in these rankings as a result of a lack of focus on its ethical investment and its low scores for the category of water reduction, and is ranked 15th out of the 24 Russell Group universities. York St John University is ranked in 97th, while Roses rival Lancaster is positioned 110th.

A University spokesperson commented to Nouse: “The University is home to an abundance of wildlife. The evolving landscape is designed not only to provide a beautiful and tranquil environment for work and study, but a habitat capable of supporting an increasingly diverse range of animals and plants.”