Climate-neutral University: The Energy Transition is already a Reality at Leuphana

Lüneburg. Leuphana University Lüneburg is pursuing an ambitious goal: to become climate neutral through its own efforts. To achieve this, the university is reducing its energy consumption to a minimum and relying 100% on renewable energy sources. “With nine solar energy units coming on line, we have moved a great deal closer to our goal,” said Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Ruck, the climate protection officer for Leuphana.

Two years ago, the university launched a European-wide call for the delivery of regenerative energy and for an energy savings contractor. The university signed a contract in 2012 with Avacon AG and Contractor Cofely Deutschland GmbH to carry out these measures. Last year, Avacon converted its Bockelsberg heat and power station to biogas for that purpose. The university’s electricity and heating consumption has been CO2-neutral ever since. In the meantime, Cofely has equally invested about 3 million Euros in the campus. Large solar energy units on the roofs of many university buildings are a visible sign of their efforts. Leuphana pays Cofely in installments out of the saved energy costs. This is, all in all, a profitable undertaking, because the university has become a sustainable energy consumer, improved its CO2-balance and reduced its costs.

With the help of its contracting plan, the university has been saving around 40% of its primary energy use by reducing its consumption. The remaining 60% of its primary energy demand is being replaced by regenerative energy sources. “The many small elements of our plan are its special feature. In tandem they provide us with a comprehensive energy plan for a climate-neutral university,” thus Dr. Oliver Opel from the research project, “Climate neutral Campus and Leuphana’s Energy System.”

In addition to changing its heating and electricity sources, Leuphana has begun, above all, to reduce its energy consumption, in order to achieve its energy goals.  The local heating grid on the central campus was also refurbished with new pipes that have highest possible insulation rating. This will lead to an annual energy savings of 190,000 kilowatt hours or 22 tons of CO2. The conversion of the heating grid and the switch to biogas resulted in a wider, more dramatic reduction of CO2 emissions. Only during periods of peak energy demand is it necessary to rely on additional conventional natural gas. The university is currently working to reduce this amount as well. The highly efficient energy storage system, developed by Leuphana’s researchers, should help in this effort.

Two years ago the power supply for the university as a whole switched 100 % to green energy. Thus, the per capita CO2-Emission rate for employees was lowered to less than half the initial figure. The new photovoltaic units, which cover an area of 3,5000 square meters, can produce up to 556 kWp. This is enough to cover around 20 % of the university’s annual electrical demand. In comparison: This amount of energy is enough to supply the annual electrical demand of 110 typical single family houses. By the end of this year, two additional units will be installed on the roofs of university buildings.   

Leuphana has also taken important steps in the area of mobility. These include a bus schedule between campus and the main train station that is directly coordinated with the class and train schedules, the introduction of job and semester tickets, as well as readily available bicycles for its commuters. As of last year, rental bicycles are also available throughout the other university locations.  The student run bicycle shop, KonRad, has taken on the job of providing cost effective bicycle repairs. “This is not enough, we want to do more. We want to reduce energy consumption even further, so that we can off set the emissions produced by students and employees commuting to campus,” said Dr. Oliver Opel, by way of explaining the university’s agenda for the coming years.