Our Net Zero Delivery Plan

A decorative graphic with yellow and purple shapes that look like sunbeams

In order to reach our net zero target we need to tackle the emissions created by heating and powering our buildings. These make up two thirds of the emissions we need to eliminate by 2030.

To do this we need to make changes to our buildings and infrastructure so that they use less energy. We also need to ensure that the energy we use comes from renewable sources.

Our Net Zero Delivery Plan outlines how we will do this, turning the ambition set out in our Pathway to Net Zero into a practical, deliverable plan for our estate.

It outlines the key projects which have been identified as the most effective ways to reduce emissions on campus, including:

  1. securing an increased electrical supply to campus which will allow us to decarbonise our heating systems;
  2. upgrading the Worsley building with heat recovery ventilation and solar panels;
  3. fully electrifying the Brownlee Centre;
  4. building a new energy centre for the Engineering Cluster of buildings, potentially incorporating the use of geothermal energy;
  5. and investing in new renewable energy generation to match our electricity usage on campus.

You can explore these projects further on this page. You can also follow our progress towards net zero in more detail on our Climate Plan Reporting page.

1. Increased electrical supply

A tree at night in Chancellors Court lit up with white lights

An increased electrical supply will allow us to move our heating system away from fossil fuels, which will deliver large scale and cost-efficient emissions reductions and go a long way to delivering our net zero target.

Whilst it might sound straightforward, it is a huge piece of work which is made more complicated by the fact that we share elements of the heating network with Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust (LTHT).

Careful co-ordination with LTHT is needed, and a new group has been created to drive forward this work.

Key milestones:

  • Complete: Calculate future energy requirements across campus
  • In progress: Develop and agree plans to expand sub station capacity
  • In progress: Request quote for increased supply from Northern Power Grid
  • In progress: Develop plans to decarbonise heating network
  • Expand sub station capacity
  • Implement decarbonisation plans for heating network
  • Receive electrical supply from Northern Power Grid - expected 2027-2028

Latest updates:

illustration of a group of biuldings with a lightning bolt suggesting power going to the buildings. The text says 'increase the electricity to supply on campus. This will enable us to decarbonise our heating systems'.

2. Upgrading the Worsley Building

A metal sculpture of a person in a garden area of the Worsley building

We plan to install a new heat recovery ventilation system in the Worsley Building, which will save over 1,000 tonnes of CO2e each year and is one of the most effective ways to reduce emissions in this high energy use building.  Heat recovery ventilation systems work by using the warm air being extracted from the building to help heat the fresh air coming in, reducing the need for the heating systems to keep the building at the right temperature. 

We will also be installing solar panels on the Worsley Building which will help support the high energy needs of the building, and reduce the amount of electricity needed from the national grid.

Key milestones:

Ventilation system:

  • In progress: Develop designs for new ventilation system
  • Obtain required approvals for work - expected 2025
  • Tender for contractor - expected 2025
  • Begin work - expected 2026

Solar panels:

  • Complete: Confirm designs
  • Complete: Tender for contractor
  • In progress: Appoint contractor
  • Begin installation - expected 2024-2025

Latest updates:

  • Quarterly Report - Jun-Aug 2023: Commenced detailed design on the building and energy infrastructure projects identified within the Net Zero Delivery Plan.
Illustration of a building with arrows suggesting transfer of heat. The text says 'Upgrade the Worsley building' and the illustration is labelled with 'solar panels' at the top of the buidling and 'heat recovery ventilation' to the side.

3. Electrify the Brownlee Centre

We’re replacing the heating system at the Brownlee Triathlon Centre with air source heat pumps. This will make the whole site – which includes the Bodington Football Hub - fully powered by electricity. Once we have invested in a new source of renewable electricity this means that heating and powering the site will not create any greenhouse gases. We’ve also installed new electric vehicle chargers to help support sustainable travel to the site for staff, students and visitors.

Key milestones:

  • Complete: Finalise plans for electrification
  • Complete: Install electric vehicle chargers on site
  • In progress: Install air source heat pumps on site

Latest updates:

Illustration of the Brownlee Centre building showing electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps. The text at the top says 'Electrify the Brownlee Triathlon Centre'

4. Build a new energy centre for the Engineering cluster

A relief sculpture on the front of the Engineering building

Being the furthest group of buildings away on our steam heating network means that energy is lost on route to this cluster, which includes the Schools of Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Chemical & Process Engineering, as well as the Henry Price hall of residence.

By installing a new local energy centre to provide all the heating needs for the buildings it serves we can almost fully decarbonise the heating systems within these buildings. 

Air source heat pumps will be a key part of the solution for this cluster. However, research is underway to understand whether geothermal heat can be used alongside these to provide a safe, efficient, sustainable solution.

Key milestones:

  • In progress: Carry out exploratory work to test the potential for geothermal energy
  • Assess potential for geothermal energy on campus - expected 2024
  • Develop plans for new energy centre - expected 2025
  • Obtain required permissions for energy centre - expected 2025
  • Build new energy centre - expected 2026
  • Connect energy centre to supply buildings - expected 2026-2027

Latest updates:

Illustration of a building with pipes going into the ground. The text says 'build a new energy centre for the engineering centre. We'll test geothermal energy alongside heat pumps'.

5. Investing in renewable energy

Renewable energy generation is a high priority for our Net Zero Delivery Plan. We believe it is important that we take responsibility for our own energy and contribute to the wider UK energy transition.  Given the limitations on generating renewable energy on campus, we are investing in new to ground off-site renewable energy generation projects which will feed electricity into the national grid.

This will initially match our current campus electricity usage, saving nearly 2,000 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) each year. As our electricity usage increases, we’ll invest in additional renewable energy projects to match this.

Key milestones:

  • Complete: Calculate current and future grid energy requirements
  • Complete: Agree approach to off-site renewable energy including criteria for tender
  • Complete: Publish tender to procure off-site renewable energy
  • Appoint supplier / contractor - expected 2025
  • Contractor to commence work - expected 2025
  • Electricity generation goes live - expected 2026-2027
  • Confirm details and timline for second phase of procurement to match increased electrical usage

Latest updates:

Illustration of fields with solar panels and wind turbines at the top, and computers, lights and other electrical devices at the bottom. The text says 'Invest in generating renewable energy. This will match our grid electricity use on campus.'

 What impact will the Net Zero Delivery Plan have?

The sustainable gardens with the Faculty of Biological Sciences beyond.

Reducing emissions from our estate requires significant changes to how we heat and power our buildings. This is a major programme of work and takes time – building work on key projects is expected to begin in 2025 with enabling works starting earlier. You might not notice big changes on campus, as the projects have been planned to minimise disruption. 

The projects in our delivery plan are expected to reduce annual emissions from our estate by more than 35,000 tonnes CO2e per year by 2030 – a reduction of 81%.

Alongside this we’ll be working out the best way to spend the remaining net zero budget to deliver even more emissions reductions and reach our net zero target. This will include both infrastructure projects and targeted work to deliver energy efficiency improvements.

What can you do? 

A row of bikes leaning against a railing on campus surrounded by rocks and green grass

Our Net Zero Delivery Plan also includes investment in programmes that support staff and student engagement with our net zero targets. There are plenty of ways that you can contribute, for example you can: 

  • Help reduce energy usage across campus, for example by switching off unused equipment overnight, at weekends and holidays.
  • Improve sustainability in labs and gain accreditation through the Sustainable Labs programme.
  • Embed sustainability in your area of work by becoming a Staff Sustainability Architect or joining the Blueprint programme.
  • Contribute to research that helps achieve net zero, with £1m seed funding available through our Living Lab programme.
  • Consider the impact of the things you purchase, buying only what is needed, reusing or repairing where possible, and choosing more sustainable options when you do need to purchase.
  • Choose the most sustainable travel option that you can, both in your journeys to and from the University and when travelling for business, research or studies away from campus.

If you are a member of staff or student at the University of Leeds, you can access the Climate Plan Sharepoint Hub (University login required) for more information on our Net Zero Delivery Plan, the seven principles that make up our Climate Plan and how you can get involved.  

You can also follow our progress towards net zero on our Climate Plan Reporting page.