Energy and Carbon

Climate change and finite energy resources have been identified as two of the biggest challenges facing the world today. To tackle these issues the university committed to achieving Net Zero by 2030.

Our Net Zero by 2030 Action Plan highlights the processes needed to meet our carbon reduction targets:

  • Direct emissions (‘Scope 1 & 2’ including electricity, gas and vehicle fleet) have a target of zero.
  • Indirect emissions (‘Scope 3’ including Waste, Water and Business Travel (non-fleet) must be reduced by at least 50% by 2030 and must continue to be reduced after 2030 by at least 90% against the baseline by 2050.
  • Residual carbon remaining at the net zero target date must be balanced by carbon removal schemes (note that these differ from offsets that avoid or mitigate carbon).

Transparency is crucial and it should be noted that other Scope 3 emissions, such as procured goods and services, employee, or student commuting, have been excluded at this stage but will be considered as a future second phase target for the University to progress to net zero in its full sense. All of these Scope 3 emissions are however reported to national reporting schemes including the Higher Education Statistical Agency EMR Report.

Our achievements so far

  • We've achieved 62% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2009/10 baseline
  • Planet Mark Carbon Footprint Verified
  • 150 solar panels installed across campuses
  • Operational combined heat & power plant running on recycled oil
  • GREen Rewards app with over 1,500 users
  • Zero-carbon air source heat pump to be operational by February 2024, reducing carbon footprint of our Avery Hill campus by 60%.

Our Carbon Footprint

Planet Mark externally verify our carbon footprint each year, showcasing that the University is accurate, and transparent over our data collection, calculations and analysis. This footprint is aligned to the targets of the Net Zero Action Plan.

Location vs Market Based Electricity Emissions

You may see organisations (including our universtiy) mention either Location-based, Market-based, or both values when referring to electricity consumption and carbon emissions. This is because electricity footprints can be calculated in two ways:

  • Location-based: This method reflects the average emissions produced by the national-grid, which includes both renewable and non-renewable (fossil fuel) electricity generation.
  • Market-based: This method reflects emissions produced from specifically chosen suppliers including from green or renewable tariffs. Tariffs that provide 100% carbon free/renewable electricity generate zero emissions to make electricity. The University is on a certified Blue Business 100% carbon-free tariff, and has been for over 10 years.  This means our electricity carbon footprint is zero, and this is the method used in our Net Zero Plan. We must continue with this tariff to meet our Net Zero ambitions.

Market-based values are seen as more accurate, however, location-based values are used most national mandatory reports because some organisations do not know, or have a lack of choice on how their electricity is generated.  This makes sector comparisons easier. Reports should always say which methods they are using. Regardless of methods, all electricity consumption will have Transmission and Distribution Losses – Scope 3 emissions – lost electricity through the grid network because of technical issues and equipment failures.

It can be argued that with Market-based factors, if on a 100% renewable tariff an organisation does not need to reduce consumption because emissions are zero. However, reducing the consumption will have financial benefit, and by reducing consumption the organisation is opening up the demand for others to join the tariff that will collectively reduce emissions.

Our Footprint 2021-2022

Our 2021-2022 Carbon Footprint Report provides insights in our emission progress. Both Location and Market-based emissions values are included for electricity.  Our natural gas footprint reduced by 9% compared to 2020-21,  with our building estate overall reducing by 4.7% emissions.  This is positive news, but with the UK emerging from the coronavirus pandemic, it is expected that site occupancy will continue to increase next year and so further monitoring is required.

The coronavirus pandemic's impact can also been seen within our vehicle fleet and business travel; increases of 11.8% and 188.7% respectively occurred during 2021-22 highlighting the availability return of academic research and campus travel.

2021-22 Carbon Footprint Graph

Our Halls of Residence Footprint

We have over 2,500 rooms across our halls of residences and it is important that we are able to separate out their consumptions from our other buildings due to the domestic usage of students. In May 2020, an Integrated Facilities Management (IFM) contract came into effect, which brought Daniel Defoe and Cutty Sark Halls into University ownership.

All of our halls of residence, except for Daniel Defoe have electric heating. Daniel Defoe has heating providing by a Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP) running on wood pellets, with gas boilers as backup.

In addition to this IFM contract, Medway halls and a section at Avery Hill (Howard, Tudor, Parr, Cleeves) are under operation of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract and are therefore managed separately, and so are not included in our energy analysis.  We still have influence over these halls, so these areas are included in behavioural change campaigns.

Electricity Consumption of Greenwich Halls

Electricity Consumption Avery Hill Halls

The coronavirus pandemic must also be mentioned, with sharp decreases seen in 2019/20 when lockdowns began and students left halls of residence early. 2020/21 would still have seen these impacts, with multiple vacant rooms across campuses as learning shifted to virtual and students decided to study at home.

Innovation & Infrastructure

Investment will be required in order to make our Net Zero 2030 target a reality. The University has currently invested into the following projects:

  • An approved Salix Grant installing Air & Ground Source heat pumps at Avery Hill to cut gas consumption by two thirds, significantly reducing our reliance of fossil fuels.
  • 130 waterless urinals throughout campuses, saving 13 million litres of water, the equivalent of 43,000 four minute showers.
  • Low flow cisterns, taps and showers are installed in all our new and refurbished buildings.
  • £430,000+ was spent in 2021, fitting new innovative sensory heaters in three Avery Hill accommodation blocks that can automatically detect room absence to save energy.
  • 150+ solar PV cells installed across Stockwell Street and Avery Hill halls.
  • Operational CHP (Combined Heat & Power Plant) at our Medway Campus, running on recycled cooking oil.

If you have an idea for a carbon saving get in touch with us at

Behaviour Change Initiatives

It is not only large-scale investment required however; we all have a responsibility in minimising our consumption of utilities and products. A number of initiatives have been established to encourage positive change and reduce our collective environmental impacts.  If you what to get involved, or have a new engagement idea get in touch with us at

Make Your Change

Make Your Change is our internal engagement campaign, encouraging students and staff to take small, personal actions from saving energy to buying better.  We all have the power to make a positive difference no matter how small the action. For example, if every student reduced their showers down to just 4 minutes we would save approximately 259’000 litres of water a week (assuming an average of 4 showers a week per student at 10 minutes with 9 litres of water used per minute per student).

GREen Rewards

GREen Rewards is an app and online platform where you can record your sustainable actions – like travelling sustainably, reporting your recycling and shopping responsibly – and earn Points for rewards.  Linking into our Make Your Change engagment programme, GREen Rewards helps to educate and highlight how small actions can add up to make a big difference.

End of Term Reuse

End of Term Reuse encourages students to donate unwanted items to local charity. Managed by students and operating every Christmas and June, it focuses on waste reduction but also educates on better choice.  On average students have donated 3 tonnes of items each year, including clothes, kitchen equipment, books and non-perishable food.  This also saves 30 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

Green Champions

Green Champions are dedicated staff members across the University, helping to drive positive change.  We currently have over 60 Green Champions who have co-created our unique approach that helps staff meet their sustainability objectives. We believe that using the passion and expertise of our staff we can develop ideas and deliver these that will create significant environmental progress.

Planet Mark

Planet Mark Bus

Planet Mark are a carbon footprinting verification body, helping organisations to be transparent and accurate in their carbon emission target setting.  Forming part of the Business Certification, and assisting the Net Zero 2030 Action Plan, with Plant Mark’s support, and with identifying new data sets, our carbon footprint will continue to reflect our total University contribution, and lead to further opportunities in reducing it.