Student campaign urges university to go green

A student-led campaign has called on the University of Sheffield to help spearhead a ‘green energy revolution’ by investing in low-carbon energy.

Formed earlier this year, UoS Clean Energy Switch has been pushing the University to switch its energy supplier to a more sustainable, carbon neutral source.

The current energy contract currently relies on a biomass-powered generator.

Despite once being touted as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels, the burning of biomass – trees and plants – actually emits as much carbon dioxide as the burning of coal, according to UoS Clean Energy Switch.

In theory, the emissions produced by the burning of biomass are cancelled out by the continued growth of the forest from which they were harvested – the new trees and plants absorb the CO2 released into the atmosphere.

However, as UoS Clean Energy Switch have argued, this ignores the time lag of at least twenty years in the growth of the trees to replace those lost, and does not consider the continual carbon storage potential of the unfelled forest.

According to Izaak Bosman, a student involved in the campaign, academic organisations have a particular responsibility to pave the way by investing in new energy generation techniques and cutting down emissions.

He said: “At the end of the day, the real issue lies in the abuse of power from larger companies and institutions.

“The university has a real opportunity going forward to position itself at the forefront of a green energy revolution.”

The university has already committed to consider the viability of switching to a new, ultra-low carbon supplier in its October 2018 Sustainability Strategy.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield echoed the sentiments of this strategy and thanked the Clean Energy Switch campaign for their input.
They said: “The University of Sheffield wants to get as much of its energy as possible from green energy suppliers.”

“We are talking to our energy consultants about the best ways to support this, taking all our needs and commitments into consideration.”

Pete Nolan, also a member of UoS Clean Energy Switch, was keen to stress the importance of both individual and group action in combatting climate change.

But he also pointed out that groups like theirs are able to use their lobbying power to call for the most effective and wide-reaching change.

Mr Nolan said: “We’re a group of students, and within three or four months we’ve gone from an idea to a fully-fledged, well-oiled operation that is going to make real change.

“The best way of feeling like you’re in control is to pick your target. So for us, the university is large enough that it makes a big difference, but it’s small enough that we feel we can have an impact.”