University of East London: Carbon emissions reduction using energy efficiency efforts

The University of East London (UEL) has successfully reduced its carbon emissions by 10% in the first phase of its net-zero strategy, aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030. Partnering with Siemens, UEL has implemented significant energy efficiency measures and renewable energy projects to drive this achievement.

University of East London: Carbon emissions reduction using energy efficiency efforts

At a glance box
Who: University of East London, Siemens
What: Carbon emissions reduction using energy efficiency initiatives
Where: UEL campuses in London Docklands and Stratford
Why: To achieve a net-zero carbon footprint by 2030
When: 2023

The challenge

The UK’s higher education sector set a shared goal of reducing Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) emissions by 43% by the 2020-21 academic year. However, research in 2022 revealed that approximately 60% of universities failed to meet this target, underscoring the need for the sector to accelerate its decarbonisation efforts.

UEL is dedicated to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030, emphasising the necessity for swift action to tackle its substantial carbon footprint across its large urban campuses, which serve 25,000 students.

The solution

UEL partnered with technology giant Siemens to develop and deliver a comprehensive net-zero strategy, integrating renewable energy solutions and advanced technologies to significantly reduce its carbon footprint and ensure progress towards its 2030 net-zero target.

How the project works

The project began with the installation of LED lighting across all buildings and upgrades to the building management system controllers to optimise energy use. This initial phase achieved a notable 10% reduction in carbon emissions from the 2020/21 baseline by 2022/23.

In the second phase, Siemens is deploying advanced technologies to further decarbonise UEL’s energy consumption. Key installations include approximately 2 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV), expected to generate 1.2 gigawatt hours (GWh) of zero-carbon electricity annually. This energy will primarily be used on campus, with any surplus fed back into the National Grid. Additionally, 27 electric vehicle (EV) charging points are being installed at the Docklands Campus to support the transition to EVs.

An innovative aspect of the project is the creation of a ‘Living Lab’ at UEL, where Siemens and the university collaborate to integrate sustainability into academic curriculums. This lab will provide real-time data, allowing students to engage with and learn from the university’s sustainability initiatives, preparing them for careers in a green economy.

The results

UEL has already achieved a 10% reduction in carbon emissions, with ongoing projects expected to further this progress significantly.

Business benefits

The project enhances UEL’s reputation as a leader in sustainability, attracting environmentally conscious students and staff. The Living Lab fosters practical learning experiences, aligning academic programmes with industry needs. Additionally, energy efficiency improvements reduce operational costs, and renewable energy projects offer long-term savings and resilience against energy price fluctuations.


The financial details of the project’s investment and the exact return on investment (ROI) have not been disclosed. The initiative is expected to deliver considerable long-term cost savings through energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

Industry context

The higher education sector is increasingly focusing on sustainability, with universities striving to reduce their carbon footprints and integrate sustainability into their curriculums. UEL’s initiatives contribute to the sector’s broader goals of achieving net-zero emissions and promoting a circular economy.

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