Sustainability at Keele in 2020 – nine ways we’re working towards a better future

At Keele, it’s no secret that sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. From embedding sustainability into all aspects of our teaching and operations, to trialling ground-breaking new green technologies, we’re committed to improving the outlook for our planet and preserving it for the next generation. In the words of Sir David Attenborough, on a visit to Keele in 2019, “This university understands sustainability. It understands that we cannot keep taking from the natural world without care.”

Though the Covid-19 pandemic had a huge impact on our operations, we were still proud to have kept our commitment to sustainability alive throughout 2020. Here are just a few of our highlights from the past year.

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We were proud to launch one of the largest electric vehicle charging hubs in the region on campus. The smart charging hub is said to be one of the largest in the region, featuring 20 points which are currently free to use, and taking our total number of EV charging points on campus to 29.‌

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Our researchers continued to investigate new ways of making our everyday lives more sustainable, including ways of promoting more sustainable energy usage in our homes. The study was led by PhD researcher Nathan Brooks and Dr James Borg from Keele University, and Dr Simon Powers from Edinburgh Napier University, and investigated new ways to spread out household energy usage and promote the efficient use of renewable energy.‌ ‌

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We launched a new MSc in Smart Energy Management this year, which is aimed at developing an advanced knowledge of smart grids, smart energy technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as cross-disciplinary issues such as sustainability.‌‌

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Keele’s Students’ Union also retained its Green Impact “excellent” sustainability ranking for the second year running in 2020. The SU carries out a range of activities in partnership with the University which have resulted in it retaining the accreditation, and demonstrates the Union’s commitment to embedding sustainability across its operations. ‌ ‌

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Our ethos of embedding sustainability across all of our campus operations has also been commended this year, with Keele being awarded Eco Campus Gold status. The Eco Campus scheme provides a framework to enable universities to identify, monitor and review their environmental objectives and targets, and ensure processes and procedures are in place to manage and minimise the environmental impact from their operations.

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Rounding out the year, Keele has once again been scored among the top 4% of universities in the world for sustainability, securing 37th place in a global ranking of over 900 universities. For the fifth consecutive year, Keele placed in the Top 40 in the UI GreenMetric World Rankings, which base their rankings on six indicators of each university’s commitment to sustainability.‌

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Keele University made a commitment within its 2010 Carbon Management Plan to reduce campus carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 against a 1990 baseline. But we were pleased to have exceeded this target even earlier than expected, reaching a 39% reduction last year before the impact of Covid-19.‌

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The ground-breaking HyDeploy trial got underway on campus at the start of the year, blending 20% (by volume) of hydrogen into our gas network in a bid to reduce carbon emissions, with users of the service reporting positive results even at this early stage. If rolled out across the country, this could save around six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year, the equivalent of taking 2.5 million cars off the road. Read more about this on the BBC website.

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As part of our pledge to be carbon neutral by 2030, we announced a new partnership with ENGIE - a leading clean energy and services company - which will enable two wind turbines and 15,000 solar panels to be installed on campus. Once complete, this will provide up to 50% of the campus’ electricity needs and the combined carbon emissions savings from the wind and solar farm will be around 1,500 tonnes per year.