Energy Q&A with our Green Campus Colleague Pat Mehigan
I recently caught up with our colleague Pat Mehigan, UCC’s Energy manager, to get his thoughts and insights on the Universities energy use, the impact of the price increases. I also asked him for help to reduce my energy use and cost at home.
"Over the last 2 decades the University has realized a 27% reduction in the total energy consumed"
Despite a significant growth in its building footprint and student numbers over the last 2 decades the University has realized a 27% reduction in the total energy consumed. An incredible performance that Pat puts down to the tireless efforts of people across the University. Pat commented that he ‘’can put my hand on energy notes and meetings from as far back as 1989 when the team talked about the environmental and monetary benefits of switching from fuel oil to natural gas for the heating systems. Since then, a lot of incredibly talented people and teams have all contributed to the energy conservation programs that have been run over the years. Buildings like the ERI, Tyndall, WGB and the Glucksman were all designed as best in class and received many accolades and awards for energy designs that are still leading edge today. Our performance today is built on the work of those leaders, and I believe that we can continue to get better’’
"Depending on where the market is at that time, we could be easily looking at a fourfold increase in our electrical costs.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that many of us over the last few months have given a fair bit of thought to our own energy use, particularly as energy prices have increased significantly. For the University this must also be a significant risk. “Definitely” says Pat, “While we have been sheltered from the price increases, thanks to the great work of the Office of Government Procurement and our own Procurement office, who fixed UCC’s unit price of electricity until April 2023, the looming increases post April are of significant concern. Depending on where the market is at that time, we could be easily looking at a fourfold increase in our electrical costs.”
“It’s up to all of us to play our role"
So, it's fair to say energy conservation has never been as important for the University then? “It’s always been important for the University, but it’s gained a whole new level of interest over the last few months. The team across the Estate are constantly working to eliminate energy wastage and encourage conservation. Only this week our team of electricians came in at 04.00 am to walk the estate to identify any issues with the external lighting programs.” explains Pat. “It’s up to all of us to play our role and I can only encourage staff and students to shout about any energy waste they see, let us know and we will do our upmost to eliminate the waste.”
Next up for Pat and the team is to kick off the reduce your use campaign for the University to compliment the planned nationwide campaign by the Government. “It looks like a great program” enthused Pat, “we are working with the SEAI and the OPW to run an intensive communications campaign on how we can conserve energy at work and in the home and we plan to roll out over the month of October, right through to March”
"I always ask people to try and understand their energy use at home"
So, we know you get asked the following question a lot but help!, how can I reduce my energy use and cost? “It’s been a common question alright” laughs Pat, “Its a process really and some people are further along the process than others. No matter where you are I always ask people to try and understand their energy use at home. Read your meter over a few days and see what your use is, try to understand your energy users and how much they consume and ask the basics, does it need to be on? if so, is it efficient and in good order? can I afford to upgrade it to a more efficient unit? Take lighting for example, the most efficient lamp I have at home is the security lamp. It's the lamp that is on the longest and so it made sense to install a decent quality A rated unit. If you want to reduce your energy bill without spending any money, then look to switch providers if you are out of contract. This is the least exciting advice I can give but it will probably give you an immediate payback. Stay tuned though as we have lots of communications planned over the winter to help our staff and students conserve energy and save money.”