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GC Zero Blog: The Plan

27 September 2021

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report stating greenhouse gas emissions must peak for the last time in the next four years, if we are to avoid a climate crisis.

This alarming message intended to prompt governments across the world to join the fight against climate change.

How can we protect the planet and future generations? There are small changes we can all make in our day-to-day lives, as well as much bigger commitments, such as becoming carbon neutral.

Thanks to our partnership with Hillside Environmental Services, and funding from Salix, we plan to transform our campuses, resources and transport links, and educate our students and partners on how we can all work together to achieve our common goal. 

Introducing GC Zero

We're proud to be the first college in the country to drive decarbonisation and pledge to be carbon zero by 2030 - that's 20 years ahead of the UK Government’s commitment to 2050. This means the carbon we generate running all of our campuses will be 100% offset by the carbon we save operating renewably and responsibly.

To give you some idea of the task, it takes the equivalent of 13 million kettles being boiled to run our Gloucester campus every single day. Or 63 million hours of continuous Xbox play. Or 17.7 million miles in an electric car.

We don’t take that task lightly and have been planning and working on GC Zero with Hillside Environmental Services since February 2020.

The Journey to GC Zero

Stage 1: Audit and Strategy

February 2020

Hillside identified our sources of carbon emission and developed a reduction strategy covering our building energy use, transport and goods consumption. Our water and waste is already being managed effectively and responsibly.

Energy was established as a significant, and the most controllable, source of emissions - and the foundation of GC Zero.

Stage 2: Funding 

July 2021

We successfully gained grant support from the UK Government's Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme; securing £2.8m of investment for the £4.8m energy retrofit. The remaining cost will be covered by the savings made from switching to renewable energy and selling surplus energy back to the grid. 

Stage 3: Electrify heating

October to December 2021

Drill 40 boreholes - each 200m deep - into both Cheltenham and Gloucester campus car parks, to install heat pumps that warm the buildings via renewable electricity, rather than combustion-based fossil fuels.

This type of ground source heat pump system harnesses natural heat from underground by pumping water through it in pipes; using less electrical energy than the heat they produce.

Stage 4: Install solar panels

November 2021 to February 2022 

Solar panels will generate green energy on site to fuel the heat pumps and produce our own renewable electricity.

Stage 5: Optimise energy use

January to February 2022

Battery storage and smart energy controls will be installed to balance our energy needs to use power at the most economic times.

This includes producing heat overnight and storing surplus electricity. We will then be able to convert to our new energy system and drive forward our decarbonisation.

Where are we now?

Following successful test drilling undertaken in August, the main drilling of the boreholes will begin at Cheltenham Campus from Monday 4 October, and Gloucester Campus from Monday 11 October.

While the noise disruption is expected to be minimal, there will be a temporary impact on parking available for staff, students and visitors. 

We are working closely with staff to minimise parking disruption, securing alternatives to ensure we can all continue to work effectively during the drilling period.

What's next?

These changes will make a lasting impact. We're leading the way for FE colleges by taking action that will combat climate change for good. We will reduce our carbon footprint by 63% in year 1 – and by following the decarbonisation of the UK national grid by 95% in 2030. 

The world needs to change. Our students want us to change. It's our time to listen and step up for climate change.

We're making positive changes to our curriculum, transport links, goods consumption and more... but that's for another blog.

Sign up for the GC Zero newsletter here to stay up-to-date on the latest news, and send us your feedback here.


With thanks to Hillside Environmental Services for writing the original blog post


Why Gloucestershire College?

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