Professor Wyn Morgan, Vice-President for Education and University Executive Board Sustainability Sponsor
As a world-leading centre of research and teaching excellence, we know that the University of Sheffield can make a huge contribution to tackling the global climate emergency. Our researchers in the Institute for Sustainable Food, the Energy Institute and the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures conduct work that is bringing about real change across the world. Our students will go on to deliver climate action across all sectors. But we know that as a socially responsible organisation, we cannot focus solely on our influence on the wider world; we must also ensure that we embody the values that we champion on campus.
That is why we have decided to become one of the very few UK universities to switch to a 100% renewable electricity tariff. This means that the purchased electricity used on campus will be sourced entirely from solar, hydro and wind power generation. Biomass will not form a part of our electricity supply. The contracts, which cover all of the University’s externally supplied electricity, will power the University’s research, teaching and administrative buildings in Sheffield and the AMRC.
Electricity accounts for over half of the University’s on-campus emissions, meaning the new supply will reduce our net carbon emissions by around 17,000 tonnes CO2 per year, helping us on our journey to becoming carbon neutral.
In 2015, we committed to divesting our investment portfolio from all fossil fuel companies; we were one of the first UK universities to do so. Last year, we announced an ambitious five-year programme as part of our Programme Level Approach (PLA) work to embed Education for Sustainable Development across all University courses. We are in the process of replacing our fleet with electric vehicles. Switching to an entirely renewable electricity supplier is the latest step in our journey to become the most sustainable research-intensive university in the country.
Throughout all of our sustainability decision making, we engage with staff and students from across the University. Many people from across our University community have spoken passionately about decarbonising our electricity consumption. We are proud of the enthusiasm and dedication that our staff and students consistently show in pursuit of climate action.
As with all big decisions at the University, the financial, social and environmental costs and benefits have to be weighed. On this occasion, these factors balanced out and allowed us to make both an environmentally- and financially-sustainable decision. We will always look at sustainability issues holistically, using our scientific and research expertise, and ensure all potential impacts are considered when making decisions.
We realise that we still have a long way to go in our contribution to tackling the climate emergency. This is an important step in the right direction, but we know that sustainability is a journey, not a destination. We will continue to ensure that sustainability is at the heart of what we do at the University of Sheffield.
Harry Carling, Students’ Union Development Officer:
I am absolutely elated the University has committed to this. This isn’t just a win for students, it is a win for the entire community: students, staff and the wider environment. This is a decision that will benefit generations of students for years to come.
Huge plaudits must go to the student-led Clean Energy Switch Campaign and our Sustainability Committee who have done an incredible job in making sure this issue has been pushed to the top of the agenda in the University. After dedicated lobbying for two academic years on this topic now, it shows just how effective the student voice can be when it captures the imagination of a Russell Group University. For that, I’m exceptionally proud. It is so important to stress how the careful balance of real grassroots pressure alongside thoughtful and deep collaboration has enabled us to reach an outcome that benefits everybody. When we collaborate, great things can happen!
It is so important that we have a University that values our student voice, and this is particularly important when talking about environmental issues, which we know this University is trying to become a sector-leader in. There is still a long way to go and everybody has to play their part, but this decision is a huge step forward on our journey to a sustainable, fit-for-purpose future.
For what has been months of bad news and unrest for so many in our community, I hope this news finds you well, and puts a huge smile on your face today.
The University of Sheffield has now set an example to the rest of the higher education sector, and organisations around the world. It is now the responsibility of others to follow.
The time for action on the climate crisis is now.