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Member Spotlight: Re:fit programme helps Anglia Ruskin University meet energy and carbon reduction goals

Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) is taking part in the Re:fit programme, a procurement initiative which supports the public sector to improve energy efficiency. Re:fit adopts an Energy Performance Contracting approach which ensures guaranteed energy and carbon savings.  

 We interviewed Simon Chubb, Head of Sustainability at ARU to find out how the programme is helping support the University’s ambitious decarbonisation agenda.  

 What attracted you to the Re:fit programme and how did you choose your energy performance contract partner?  

In 2019 the University went through an options analysis and we decided that we didn’t have the capacity to deliver our decarbonisation agenda. We investigated several options and found that Re:fit ticked most of our boxes. The fact that energy and carbon savings are underwritten by the contractor in the Energy Performance Contract was very appealing. De-risking the investment in this way was also a sweeteneralso provided reassurance for the our leadership team.  

Local Partnerships, who run the Re:fit programme outside of London, helped us to recruit our framework partner. There were two companies that met our key criteria and I’m sure we would have been happy with either of them but Vital Energi just pipped it in the end.  

You have an overarching goal to reach zero emissions by 2045. What is the role of the Re:fit framework in achieving this? 

We have targets to reach zero emissions in Scope 1 by 2035 and in Scope 3 by 2045. We have met zero carbon in Scope 2 already. Our goals are defined as zero carbon targets as we have ruled out using offsetting.   

Under the Re:fit framework agreement the energy and carbon savings are guaranteed so we can guarantee exactly how much we will save and how this will contribute to our zero emissions target. 

 What approach have you taken to energy savings under the arrangement? 

We worked in partnership with Vital Energi to define three key phases of our energy efficiency programme.  

We take the same four-stage approach to each phase. Firstly, Vital carry out a high-level assessment of buildings to identify potential energy saving measures, indicative costs and estimated savings. Then we agree investment grade proposals which involve more detailed feasibility surveys, fixed costs based on quotes from suppliers and guaranteed savings. After that the work is carried out. Finally monitoring and verification ensures that the measures were successful and verifies that the guaranteed savings are being achieved. 

 What have you achieved so far under your energy performance contract with Vital Energi? 

We have invested £1.5 million so far and saved 265 tonnes of carbon – equivalent to the annual energy use of 100 UK households.  

Phase one of the programme focused on teaching and residential buildings on ARU’s Cambridge and Chelmsford campuses. This involved LED lighting upgrades, building management system controls and plantroom insulation. Phase two focused on installing 356 kW of rooftop solar panels, building management system controls and plantroom insulation.  

Phase three is scheduled for delivery in the summer of 2024. We are investing up to £1 million and it is looking like a major investment in cooling optimisation technology. We are looking at reducing our energy loads from our air handlers, air conditioners and the University’s data centre.   

 What are the major benefits of the approach you have taken under the Re:fit framework? 

There are many benefits to working under the framework. I don’t think we would have got such a good agreement in place if we hadn’t gone through Re:fit. The contract deals with all the legal, technical and financial aspects for you.  

Re:fit facilitates a partnership approach which addresses key capacity gaps. The framework follows a clear structure which enables you to implement measures quickly and effectively. It is also an action orientated programme which has engaged senior leadership well on decarbonisation.   

 You have decided to extend the programme to tackle the challenging area of heat decarbonisation. What are your plans in this area? 

We investigated several options to see how we could best decarbonise heat. Re:fit was not originally designed to tackle heat decarbonisation but it offers many benefits. We are asking Vital for their strategic input into the best approach to take and to advise on climate resilience. For example, will the technologies they propose keep internal spaces cool in the kind of summers we will have in 2045? 

Vital has now undertaken a high-level assessment on the Chelmsford and Cambridge campuses. The next phase will be to align this with our capital investment programme and come up with a costed programme over ten years. The approach we anticipate taking is to target one or two buildings a year.   

 What advice would you give to a higher education institution or public body considering using the Re:fit framework agreement? 

I would strongly recommend considering the Re:fit route to tackle low hanging fruit but also for those bigger strategic challenges like heat decarbonisation. It is proving worthwhile to us on both elements of the decarbonisation agenda.   

The framework approach neatly addresses the barriers to decarbonisation. It also enables you to quantify carbon savings and break down energy savings into manageable chunks of work. In addition, it enables change at scale and pace, meaning that you can you realise the carbon reduction benefits quickly.

Categories: Environment, Sustainability, Energy (General)
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