Optimizing campus energy and infrastructure | Centrica Business Solutions
Optimizing your campus energy and infrastructure

Optimizing your campus energy and infrastructure

What opportunities do colleges and universities have in achieving their energy and sustainability goals?

Colleges and universities are tasked with an incredible feat – reducing overhead costs without impacting the quality of their institution or shortchanging students. Addressing overhead expenses like energy and maintenance costs is particularly important as many campus buildings across the U.S. are aging. Aging energy infrastructure carries the high price tag of inefficient energy consumption, resulting in energy waste and a high carbon footprint. Consequently, many institutions know that they need to upgrade infrastructure to reduce energy costs, increase efficiencies, minimize waste, and reduce carbon emissions.

The main questions for many colleges and universities, then, isn’t whether or not they should upgrade infrastructure, but what exactly do they need to do? What measures do they need to take? Where should they even start? And how do they overcome capital constraints?

These questions are becoming more top of mind as colleges and universities look to address the efficiency and sustainability of assets across their campus energy infrastructure and pursue operational excellence. With energy-intensive campus infrastructure draining critical financial resources, deferred maintenance backlogs to address energy infrastructure upgrades growing, and sustainability scorecards playing a significant role in attracting students, higher education institutions have a tall order to fill to satisfy their stakeholders. 

Multi-measure energy infrastructure upgrades

There are a variety of facility improvement measures (FIMs) that colleges and universities can implement to reach their sustainability and budget goals. These upgrades allow institutions to get the most from their energy and drive the most value from their infrastructure, extending far beyond simply saving on energy costs. They work together to address energy conservation, energy generation, energy monetization, and energy resilience while ensuring the safety and comfort of students and staff.

To reach net zero goals and dramatically boost energy efficiency across campus infrastructure, colleges and universities must think more broadly about how they use and source energy and how to maximize their infrastructure. Low-hanging fruit like LED lighting upgrades and ensuring rooms are not heated or cooled while unoccupied are undoubtedly necessary, but energy conservation is just the first step toward achieving sustainability and net zero goals.

FIMs focusing on energy conservation set the stage for more robust energy solutions like on-site renewable energy generation, energy storage, resilience from grid outages, and energy monetization through utility demand response programs ­– enabling institutions to fully maximize their energy and their campus infrastructure and reach their net zero and energy efficiency goals faster.

A variety of FIMs enable colleges and universities to upgrade outdated energy assets and implement cutting-edge integrated energy solutions – to simultaneously deliver financial and decarbonization results while improving and enhancing their campus environment.

LED lighting upgrades and controls

Upgrading energy-inefficient lighting to LED is a great place to start with energy infrastructure upgrades. LED lighting uses about 50% less electricity than traditional options, delivering cost savings, especially when paired with lighting controls for effective and efficient management of campus-wide lighting. With an expected lifespan of 30,000 to 50,000 hours, LED lighting also requires less frequent maintenance, reducing maintenance costs. Multiple studies have shown that optimized LED lighting dramatically improves occupant performance in visual and cognitive tasks, reduces fatigue, increases activity, improves reaction times, and boosts morale. Applications aren’t constrained to interior lighting – institutions can also upgrade exterior lighting, like parking lot lights and pathway lights, to improve light quality and increase campus safety.

High-efficiency HVAC upgrades

Optimizing the performance and efficiency of HVAC systems dramatically reduces energy consumption, energy costs, and maintenance expenses while providing measurable improvements in comfort, morale, and productivity. As Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than outside, the comfort and safety of indoor environments are more important than ever. In addition to using less energy than predecessor technology, modern HVAC systems create an optimal living, learning, and working environment by ensuring proper ventilation and indoor air quality – so that students and faculty can perform their best.

Water efficiency measures

Conserving our natural resources should be part of any higher education’s sustainability strategy and can simultaneously deliver operational cost savings. By installing water-efficient fixtures and equipment, colleges and universities can lower water and sewer costs across their campus infrastructure. In addition, reducing the amount of energy used in the pumping of water lowers carbon emissions, further boosting environmental credentials.

Building envelope and weatherization

It’s essential to consider the building envelope when investing in energy efficiency technology like new lighting, HVAC, etc. Making retrofits to the existing building envelope minimizes heat transfer between interior and exterior spaces to ensure that rooms stay cool when air-conditioned and warm when heated.

Building automation systems

By implementing a building automation system, institutions can automate the tasks required to efficiently and cost-effectively operate HVAC, lighting, security, and other systems through a single, intelligent system. Building automation systems provide convenient access to information on equipment performance and utility metering, combining predictive technologies with customized facility preferences to proactively manage building infrastructure operations. The system can monitor equipment in real-time to detect inefficiencies before they become problems – reducing maintenance costs and equipment breakdowns.

Solar PV and battery storage

Installing solar PV panels enables colleges and universities to unlock value from their campus rooftops, parking lots, and grounds, transforming these assets into sources of on-site renewable energy generation. Installing solar reduces grid energy consumption, lowers energy costs, and demonstrates a commitment to the environment. Institutions can store excess energy in batteries to reduce demand charges during peak price times. They can also participate in net metering, which enables them to send excess energy back to the grid and receive payment from the utility in the form of bill credits applied to their monthly utility bill, reducing future energy costs and operating expenses.


During a power outage, students and faculty rely on colleges and universities to keep the lights on and emergency services operational. The traditional approach to backup power by using generators is not a long-term, sustainable, or environmentally-friendly solution. Nor does it align to net zero targets. A microgrid, however, secures energy resilience and safeguards critical campus operations from potential risks while enabling institutions to remain aligned with their sustainability and financial goals. A microgrid solution composed of a solar PV system, battery storage, and a backup generator generates and stores renewable energy supply on-site, reduces energy and demand costs, and lowers carbon emissions.

Higher education brochure
Sustainable energy solutions for higher education institutions
The right partner and energy strategy mean a faster path to reach your net zero and budget goals. Download our brochure to learn how Centrica Business Solutions helps colleges and universities balance planet, profit, and resilience.

A pathway to sustainability

As demonstrated above, many options are available for making energy infrastructure upgrades. There are also just as many pathways for implementation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of opportunities. It’s also easy to be overwhelmed by budget constraints. However, there are a few things to consider.

Many institutions assume that they need to tackle projects one at a time due to budget constraints. This method is not the most efficient way to implement energy efficiency upgrades, and various financing mechanisms are available to enable institutions to implement multi-measure energy solutions without upfront capital. Instead of phasing projects over a few decades, institutions can immediately tackle their energy costs and carbon emissions to achieve their net zero and energy goals sooner.

To maximize campus energy infrastructure, it’s important to understand the scope of upgrades available and how the components interact with each other to deliver energy cost savings and reduce carbon emissions. The order of implementation matters to maximizing energy infrastructure. For instance, installing a solar PV system without first addressing energy conservation measures like lighting and HVAC upgrades will not yield the most cost-effective solar PV system. The system would be over-sized for the energy needs. In addition, under various financing mechanisms, energy savings from energy conservation and efficiency measures may even pay for renewable technologies like solar PV.

So where do you start?

Every institution is different, so you need a partner who can offer technologies and services that fit your challenges. While they may have the same goal of achieving net zero, every institution’s sustainability journey looks different. Working with the right partner is essential to implementing successful infrastructure upgrades while remaining aligned to your strategic and financial goals.

As an integrator of sustainable energy solutions, Centrica Business Solutions works with higher education institutions like yours to remove complexity. We deliver a full range of bundled, end-to-end energy solutions and services encompassing energy efficiency measures, renewable energy offerings, and demand response services – and deploy them in the right order for maximum impact.

We provide a comprehensive approach to energy management, offering expertise, technologies, financing, and full lifecycle support.

Benefits to your institution:

  • Complete analysis of your energy infrastructure
  • Financing solutions to meet your needs and hit your budget
  • The most “add-on” value through our bundled, end-to-end solutions
  • End-to-end support to plan and execute your infrastructure upgrades
  • Optimization of assets and ongoing measurement and verification to deliver on compliance and guarantee energy savings

Centrica Business Solutions can weave together a strategy from our broad portfolio to help you address the efficiency and sustainability of assets across your energy infrastructure as you pursue operational excellence. Our solutions can help you to reduce complexity when you’re adopting a blend of technologies. And we help you optimize your campus energy and infrastructure to deliver value in the short and long term.