Our energy journey

UC is on a journey to neutralise carbon emissions, in line with the aspirations of our students and staff, our partners and communities, and Aotearoa New Zealand's commitment to achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. We want to be part of the solution to the climate emergency that has been declared in Aotearoa New Zealand, Waitaha Canterbury and around the world.

Since the mid-1990s UC has had an energy efficiency programme, and between 2010 and 2019 UC has achieved a 23% decrease in our carbon emissions. The energy efficiency programme includes:

  • energy efficient design of new buildings and renovations
  • energy audits and ongoing monitoring
  • improving the efficiency of our buildings by upgrading heating, ventilation, cooling, lighting, glazing and isulation 

UC has a strategic objective to become net carbon neutral by 2030. We are intending to do this by:

  • Replacing coal as a heating fuel with wood (biomass), which will reduce our space-heating emissions by about 80% (equivalent to 9000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions)
  • Heating any new buildings with ground source heat pumps, which are powered by electricity (a mostly renewable resource in New Zealand). The recently completed UCSA building, Haere-roa, is heated with renewable energy in the form of a ground-source heat-pump (GSHP) system. These pumps draw stable, latent heat from the ground through the building. The new student accommodation block, Tupuānuku, is currently under construction and also uses a GSHP system.
  • Continuing to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings. Legacy buildings are being progressively upgraded with improvements to thermal efficiency so that less heating is needed, in preparation to a longer term move to GSHP. UC will convert existing buildings to non-combustion heating ovet the next twenty years. 
  • Sequestering more carbon on our lands through a tree planting programme to absorb and off-set UC's remaining carbon emissions (e.g. from air travel) where opportunities exist.

In 2018, UC launched a Low Carbon Energy Scheme Roadmap strategy, which plans to cut the coal-based carbon footprint emissions by 80% by 2023 (NB this is not a publically available document due to the very large file size and the commercially sensitive nature of the content).

Climate Resilience

In 2021 UC adopted a Climate Change Risk Register, which sets out key risks our university faces from climate change. Following this, in 2022 UC embarked on a detailed Climate Change Infrastructure Review. This multi-year project will assess UC’s built and natural assets  systematically to test their resilience in the face of modelled climate change scenarios for our region.

Green Buildings

Exemplifying UC’s commitment to green building practices, UC is a proud member of the New Zealand Green Building Council. The New Zealand Government aims to have zero-carbon buildings by 2050 and in this media release here our Beatrice Tinsley building, home of UC's College of Science, is shown as an example of how our architecture industry is making moves towards that goal.

Existing certified green buildings on campus include:

  • School of Biological Sciences
  • John Britten engineering facility
  • Health Centre

See more information about green buildings at UC here.

UC has employed an Energy Manager since 2009 to work with UC Staff, consultants, contractors, and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), to find ways to increase energy efficiency in the built-environment and reduce water consumption on campus.

EECA works with UC to identify and provide energy audits; feasibility studies and design/commissioning advice to deliver energy efficient projects.

Toitū carbonreduce certification

UC was the first university in the Southern Hemisphere to achieve CEMARS (now Toitū carbonreduce certification) in 2011. Toitū certification involves measurement and planned reduction of greenhouse gas emissions generated as a result of the university's business activities.

See UC's 2020 carbon disclosure statement here.

The UC Sustainability Policy seeks to embed sustainable practices into the University’s operations as we strive towards becoming a sustainable organisation.

What can I do to save energy and take action on my energy footprint? Click here for energy saving tips.