Public sector estate decarbonisation

3 min read published on December 6, 2022

The UK public sector collectively manages the biggest property portfolio in the country, worth a staggering £515bn. This portfolio, made up of 300,000 individual buildings, is responsible for 10% of the country’s total buildings emissions.

The public sector is well aware of its climate impact and has been setting itself ambitious net zero goals. Over 300 councils in the UK have already drawn up a net zero plan, with 11 of those aiming to reach net zero as soon as 2025 or earlier. NHS England is aiming for net zero by 2045, while NHS Scotland is shooting for 2040 at the latest. Wales is aiming for the entire public sector to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Decarbonising public sector buildings is an essential step for public sector organisations to reach these goals and will also have a significant impact on the UK’s overall buildings emissions footprint.

Powering down: reducing consumption

But how should public sector organisations go about cutting their buildings emissions? The government’s Net Zero Estate Playbook has useful guidance, informed by the work of the UK Green Building Council, on how to reduce consumption.

The focus is rightly on the operational emissions of existing buildings. Although it is important for future construction to minimise emissions, the reality is that most of the buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built. Any realistic route to net zero will involve making these buildings as energy efficient as possible, with the current reality as a starting point.

Measures to reduce energy consumption tend to fall into several different categories. There are the “easy wins”, such as replacing incandescent and fluorescent lightbulbs with vastly more efficient LEDs. There are measures with a bigger initial investment, such as insulation and equipment upgrades. And there are significant, disruptive changes such as electrifying a heating system.

Behavioural change is a key tool for reducing any building’s operational emissions. This might be something as small as reminding staff not to overfill the kettle or switch the light off when they’re the last person to leave a room. Or it might involve scheduling regular maintenance of key equipment to keep everything running at peak efficiency.

Green sourcing: key to net zero

Reducing consumption is one half of the solution, but it won’t get you to net zero alone. As well as cutting energy use overall, you need to reduce emissions from the energy you do use.

This means making it a priority to switch to greener sources. And many public sector organisations are doing just that. Manchester Council is moving forwards with plans to buy its own solar farm, while Cornwall Council has installed a wind turbine with the capacity to power over 1,440 homes. Other organisations might sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a renewable generator, so they guarantee their supply of green energy without actually owning the asset.

It's easy to decide that your organisation should invest more in renewables: cheaper energy, protection from price spikes and a lower carbon footprint. But deciding exactly what to do in practice is much trickier. Should you choose wind, solar, biomass or something else? What capacity do you need? What about battery storage?

There is help at hand for these difficult questions: the ENTRNCE Matcher. This pioneering data platform can visualise your organisation’s clean energy “score”, showing exactly where your energy is coming from in half-hourly increments. Even for people who have spent their whole career in energy procurement or sustainability, this process often brings surprises about the organisation they work for.

Modelling different futures

Very importantly for your decision-making, the Matcher lets you try out simulations of different energy choices for your organisation. What if you signed a PPA with a completely different mix of generation assets? What if you invested in a solar array rather than a wind turbine? What if you changed the geographical location of some planned generation projects? The Matcher lets you see exactly how different scenarios would play out for your organisation. If you are implementing energy efficiency measures, the Matcher can show you which energy options suit your future (reduced) consumption patterns.

This makes it much easier to make investment decisions with confidence.

As a public sector organisation, you are a key part of the UK’s drive to net zero and the decisions you make have a serious impact. To find out exactly how you can make the best possible decisions, visit and request a free Matcher demonstration.  


Picture of Jaron Reddy - Business Lead UK

Published December 6, 2022

Jaron Reddy - Business Lead UK