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For the month of November, the Environment and Energy section shone their spotlight on energy use at the University. This page gives you an idea of what took place, and how you can get involved in saving energy. Keep an eye out for more 'spotlight' events, and why not check out the spotlight on waste page too!

In 2014-2015 the University consumed 243 million kWh of energy - enough to power all of Cambridge's streetlights each night, for 92 years! This equates to over £16 million a year, which is £1,865 an hour. While much of this energy is used in vital research some of it is wasted through bad practices, poor buildings and out dated equipment. 

During spotlight on energy E&E will highlight work taking place across the University to reduce carbon emissions from energy use, top tips on how individuals and departments can take action to reduce their own energy footprint and debunk myths surrounding what should and shouldn't be switched off. 


Energy reduction across the University 

Can you take action to reduce energy use (within your department)?

The following is a list of simple actions your department or building can take to reduce your energy use. All of these actions are taken from the Green Impact online workbook, so if completed will get you points towards a Green Impact award (see the points and criteria number in brackets after each action).

  • Invite staff in your area to feedback their ideas for saving energy, and implement at least one of the ideas. (B006, 3 points)
  • Provide information on at least five energy saving opportunities to all departmental staff (B007, 3 points). Use our top tips page for inspiration. 
  • Display environmental awareness stickers and posters in the majority of offices and communal facilities encouraging staff and students to switch off lights when not needed, reduce water use, and to recycle. These can be downloaded from or hard copies requested via (B009, 3 points)
  • Label any banks of three or more light switches to identify which lights each switch operates, and provide clear guidance notes alongside any novel lighting controls. (B010, 3 points)
  • Carry out a walk round energy audit of the office using our basic energy audit template on our Guidance documents web page. (S005, 7 points)
  • If the office has portable electric heaters, ensure that these are on controlled distribution through a booking system, and only used in exceptional circumstances or for occasional out-of-hours working. (S006, 8 points)
  • Hold an event or initiative to promote the energy-saving benefits of wearing a jumper rather than turning the heat up. For example, a 'wear your jumper to work day' could be organised as a charity day with staff members giving a donation to charity as well. The energy-saving benefits of wearing a jumper over turning up the heating should be communicated as part of the event. (S007, 5 points)
  • Check the temperature controls of domestic fridges on a regular basis, to ensure they are set between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius. (G026, 4 points)
  • Take action to ensure that office equipment is not left on unnecessarily, especially at night and the weekend. This could be through communicating to staff and students to encourage switching off at the end of the day, or by ensuring that one staff member in each office (this could also be cleaners, maintenance or security staff) is given responsibility for switching such equipment off. Timer switches can also be a cheap and effective way to address this issue. (G029, 4 points). View our Guidance documents for a Lighting and Equipment responsibility plan. 

Energy actions for Colleges

  • On a regular basis, the College can promote the benefits to its students of washing laundry on the cold cycle or at a maximum of 30C within their accommodation. (CT001, 2 points)
  • Colleges can promote using heating efficiently by encouraging students and staff to draw curtains, not to block radiators and wear jumpers instead of turning up the heat. (CT002, 3 points)
  • The College has invited all staff (including administrators, catering, grounds, cleaners, porters and bedders) and students in its area to feed back ideas for saving energy within the last 12-months, and has implemented at least one of the ideas. (CT041, 3 points)
  • The College has encouraged students to ensure that their fridges are set to the correct temperature (5 degrees Celsius). (CT042 3 points)
  • The College has encouraged students to switch off all electrical equipment at the plug between use, including:
    • Toasters;
    • Kettles;
    • Microwaves;
    • Televisions;
    • Monitors;
    • Mobile phone and laptop chargers;
    • Hair straighteners. (CT043, 2 points)
  • If the College has any hot drink vending machines, water coolers or chilled drink vending machines in areas that are not accessed 24/7, they are switched off where possible to save energy. (CT044, 6 points)
  • The College could have a basic energy audit carried out, resulting in an action list for consideration by senior managers. (CT045, 6 points)
  • Providing information on at least five energy saving opportunities to all College staff on a regular basis could help raise awareness of simple actions staff can take. (CT046, 7 points)
  • Placing energy-awareness stickers and posters in the majority of offices and communal facilities can encourage users to switch off lights and/or equipment when not needed. Posters should be dated to show when they were put up and ideally refreshed every 12-months to keep them noticeable. (CT047, 7 points)
  • Banks of three or more light switches within the College could be labelled to identify which lights each switch operates. Any novel lighting controls could have clear guidance notes beside them to help users know how to switch them on and off. (CT048, 5 points)

Energy actions for labs (see more here):

  • By ensuring that luminaries are high efficiency ones, e.g. compact fluorescent lamps for task lighting, and LED or T5 fluorescent lights (rather than T8 or T12s) for overhead lighting, energy reducing can be significantly reduced. (L007, 5 points)
  • Ensuring that all room/corridor lighting is always turned off when not required (and when compatible with safety) can be achieved by ensuring staff know who is responsible for switching-off lights at the end of the day, by placing stickers on light controls, by reporting technical issues and opportunities to estates; or by undertaking surveys out of hours to identify and address any issues. (L036, 3 points)
  • Making maximum use of natural lighting, for instance by drawing blinds rather than using lighting, can help reduce energy use. (L037, 5 points)
  • Replacing mercury or CFL lighting with LED low energy lighting for scientific tasks, for instance in growth chambers, microscopy and plant growth rooms whenever possible can have significant energy benefits. (L038, 6 points)
  • Make sure that equipment that can be is turned off or powered down when not in use, together with related devices (e.g. AC/DC converters). This can be achieved by automatic timers or by ensuring responsible staff are made aware. (L045, 4 points)
  • Explicitly consider energy, water and waste issues and costs (including any secondary costs such as increased room cooling) when purchasing lab equipment. (L047, 6 points)
  • Put effective communications in place to encourage energy efficient use of fume cupboards where these are used in labs. (L029, 3 points)
  • All fume cupboard sashes should be down when no one is working in them, especially at night or over weekends. Fume cupboard stickers available here. (L031, 3 points)
  • Switch off fume cupboards when not in use for extended periods, where it is possible and when safe to do so (e.g. no effect on pressure requirements). (L032, 6 points)
  • Store cold storage samples and materials in the most energy efficient way for effective preservation. Many biological samples are being stored at lower temperatures than necessary (e.g. ultracold freezers are often set to maximum settings such as -80C when -70 would be sufficient). Ambient temperature DNA storage technologies are also available. (L022, 8 points)

Read more about research being carried out at Cambridge on energy: