Leading the way to 2050

Scotland’s universities play a fundamental part in the life of the country and are diverse and complex institutions. Between them they have five medical schools, three dental schools and two vet schools. There is an art school, a conservatoire and an agricultural college. But no matter what the size, the speciality or the location, Scotland’s 19 universities are committed to reducing their carbon footprint.

As for any other business or institution change comes at a cost and a lack of funding can mean the difference between a carbon reduction project happening and it remaining a well-intentioned idea in a strategic plan. It was a desire to help remove this barrier that led the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to introduce its University Carbon Reduction Fund.

Launched in 2017, the fund has two strands; one that supports large-scale programmes from £500,000 to £5 million and one that supports smaller-scale energy efficiency projects. In the first year of the funding scheme 15 applications were funded to a tune of just over £16 million.

Amongst the larger projects was funding towards the University of Strathclyde’s £20 million Combined Heat and Power (CHP) District Heating system, itself part of a long-term, £650 million investment in the university’s infrastructure which is set to reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions by 4,500 tonnes and save £2 million a year.


SFC’s University Carbon Reduction Fund provided £852,500 to improve the efficiency of the existing heat network. Central to the improvements was the need to balance out variations in demand and prevent heat being vented into the atmosphere when demand was low. This is being achieved by the installation of a huge 100,000 litre thermal store. The funding also paid for over two kilometers of piping to extend the university’s district heating network.


Dr Roddy Yarr, Strathclyde’s Assistant Director (Sustainability and Environmental Manager), said: “These new works will extend and optimise the district energy network to generate additional financial and carbon savings. The university has been working in partnership with SFC on this and other innovative schemes and this funding is helping to transform the way that the university manages its energy costs and is able to tackle climate change.”

In the East of Scotland, a £440,000 funding investment at Heriot-Watt University illustrates a more typical package of measures underway to make Scottish universities greener. Designed to reduce the university’s energy spend and carbon emissions from heating, it focusses on upgrading boiler plants in three student halls of residence. Once installed, the upgraded system will save an estimated 24% on heating bills and contribute to a 15% reduction in emissions.

Elsewhere, projects are of the type that any energy-conscious homeowner would recognise – but scaled up to a large organisation level. At Abertay University inefficient fluorescent lighting is being replaced by modern LED fittings with intelligent controls to make sure lights go off in unoccupied areas or when natural daylight is providing enough illumination. New lighting systems at the University of Dundee include improving the working environment in laboratories in a scheme that will reduce energy consumption by 64 percent. At Edinburgh Napier University three more of its campuses will have solar panel electricity systems thanks to a £400,000 funding injection from SFC.


Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “Scotland’s Climate Change Act stipulates an 80% reduction in our CO2 emissions by 2050. The Scottish Funding Council’s University Carbon Reduction Fund is helping universities to lead the way to that target. The fund is encouraging ambition and innovation as well as helping big organisations to take practical measures to effect change.”


The Herald’s Climate for Change initiative supports efforts being made by the Scottish Government with key organisations and campaign partners. Throughout the year we will provide a forum in The Herald newspaper, online at herald.scotland.com and in Business HQ magazine, covering news and significant developments in this increasingly crucial area.

If you are interested in contributing editorially or interested in becoming a Climate for Change
partner, please contact Stephen McTaggart on 0141 302 6137 or email stephen.mctaggart@heraldandtimes.co.uk


A non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government oversees environmental regulation, monitors and reports on the state of the environment, raises awareness of environmental issues, and resolves environmental harms. 




Organiser of conferences and events aimed at addressing the current carbon reduction position, enabling those leading and driving policies and proposals to share their vision, and highlighting Scotland as the best place in which to invest in low-carbon businesses.




The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is helping make Scotland the best place in the world to educate, to research and to innovate. Investing around £1.8 billion of public money each year, SFC’s funding enables Scotland’s colleges and universities to provide life-changing opportunities for over half a million people.




A Scottish Property Factor with nationwide coverage. Newton have ambitious plans to help future proof their customers’ properties, making them greener, cleaner and more energy efficient resulting in significant savings in running costs.



The Conferderation of Passenger Transport - Scotland

The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) is recognised by Government as the voice of the bus and coach industry, and the focus for consultation on national and international legislation, local regulations, operational practices and engineering standards.